By Michael Reubens
I recently had the opportunity to see two one-act plays performed separately during a matinee by two actors – both monologues acted before and after the intermission – written by two diverse playwrights and a female star in concert singing and reciting stories from her past.
I refer to Sea Wall/A Life starring Tom Sturridge (Alex) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Abe) at Hudson Theatre and the unique and multi-talented Barbra Streisand at Madison Square Garden.
Being part of an audience to a one-person show requires non-stop focus and concentration from both artiste and audience alike. The story-telling needs full participation and quick wit, repartee and humour, clever writing and on-point direction throughout, culminating in a perfectly balanced flow on and off stage!
Case in point: theatrical presentations in the past from Ian Mckellen and Roy Dotrice excelling in their craft: Spellbinding one-man performances reciting from Shakespeare’s plays and reenacting John Aubrey respectively.
Simon Stephens and Nick Payne, the British playwrights in question (Sea Wall/A Life) induce room for thought as both actors delve into love, death, marriage, relationships and sex, holidays in France, religion and spirituality, to name just a few topics by both actors in their respective monologues.
Although somewhat different in personality both characters displayed uncanny similarities as their therapeutic styles unfolded. At times we, the audience, shared pain, sadness and frivolity as if witnessing a patient- Doctor relationship in session.
Barbra Streisand on the other hand needed no introduction. BS stood for no BS as her choice of song material and displays of photo albums unfolded recently at her one-night concert, a copy of her London Hyde Park show as she explained at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
In between her global top selling hits from Funny Girl (People) and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s (As if we never said goodbye) from Sunset Boulevard for example, she displayed photos of herself in films and Theatre and told of her humble beginnings winning a talent contest in New York to her early cabaret days (Village Vanguard). She even pointed out the Clintons’ in the audience surrounded of course by secret service while reading the mega tele-prompter- just in case she lost her place in the script! As a Hilary Supporter she let nothing slip while reminding us how she does not like Trump thereby no big fan of the current White House administration. She even spoofed the Sondheim classic Send in the clowns from A Little Night Music with cleverly altered lyrics as a giant photo of Trump with a red clown nose flashed behind and around her.
She didn’t however introduce us to her band, musical director on piano or her back-up singers.
I still was mesmerized by her stunning performance especially as it was the first (maybe only) time to see Miss B.S. live and in person.
* Sea Wall/A Life is playing for a limited season at the Hudson Theatre. 141 West 44th Street. New York City. Seawallalife.com
*livenation.com (Barbra Streisand)