Saturday, September 29, 2007

All Systems Go!

The San Diego Union Tribune's Anne Marie Walsh has written two articles, the first giving some quotage from Ms Harris herself.

On the play as a whole:

[...] It's a wonderful role and there's something about the message – although I don't like that word. There's a philosophy that this book and the play revealed to me, and if people can take that away, I think they will be enriched. [...]

On its lessons about life:

[...] We all take life a little bit for granted when really it's like Oscar says: 'Life isn't a gift; it's a loan.' That's such a wonderful idea. Because none of us know how much time we have left. The decades whiz by. [...]

Also see the article for a detailed description of Ms Harris' theatrical career.

The second relates more to the play, to which it just about gives a thumbs up overall, although the few negative elements are attributed to Schmitt's writing rather than Harris' acting. Walsh mentions the latter's 'cheerful energy' and praises her for being 'game enough to give the script her best shot'.

She also gives us a pretty comprehensive run-through of the story. On the Oscar in the title:

[...] Oscar is the 10-year-old protagonist... a bald leukemia patient who's “quite a handful” as Harris put it. ... He's dying, he knows. But his parents are too heartbroken to speak the truth to him. ...

Though he doesn't believe in God, Oscar agrees to Granny Pink's plan that he should write to God, describing each day of the next 12 as if it were one decade of his life. Schmitt allows Oscar the fantasy of growing up – courtship, a wife, a midlife crisis, old age. [...]
On how this relates to the staged play:

[...] The Pink Lady (aka Granny Pink) is an elderly volunteer at a children's hospital. ... Colorful decals of dinosaurs and elephants march about the white walls and furniture, but do nothing to disguise the fact that this is a place where children suffer and some will die. ... Oscar's experiences are filtered through the voice of Harris' Pink Lady; she recalls and conjures the boy by reading and enacting the letters he wrote to God. [...]

From an acting point of view, this one-woman play seems to require a whole range of abilities; Walsh describes how Harris has to read Oscar's letters using 'multiple voices' and describes how she 'morphs into the little girl Oscar loves' and also becomes 'the doctor with the thick eyebrows'.

She goes on to surmise:

[...] Harris has a great deal of fun acting out Oscar's accounts of Granny Pink's tales of being a championship wrestler, The Incredible Midget. She pumps her fists and does big knee-bends before sending imaginary opponents to the mat. [...]

According to her description of Ms Harris' childhood however, this is not a new concept:

The young Rosemary loved adopting other personas to fool even family members; once, she did dress as a wrestler “in a bathing suit and leggings.”

Last but not least, there are also mentions of the talents of Ms Ehle, the cast of Utopia and working in such an ensemble:

The qualities that have made her one of the most respected actors in the English-speaking theater – a combination of personal radiance, professionalism and versatility – define her accomplished 36-year-old daughter as well. ... Speaking at the Radio City Music Hall's [Tony] ceremony, she shone with affection for the Lincoln Center ensemble of 44 ... that had spent nine months rehearsing and unveiling Tom Stoppard's trilogy...

Harris, who spent happy periods during her long career in such repertory companies, echoed her daughter's sentiments last week. “You become a team player. You become a family when you work on several different plays together like that in a company. In movies and television, that bonding never happens.”
The Los Angeles Times' Patrick Pacheco gives an equally comprehensive account of the play and Ms Harris' career, including more quotage.

On a pre-first preview nightmare:

"I had an anxiety dream the other night. ... I was in the middle of a performance and then all the characters in the play suddenly began coming out from the wings, handing me pieces of paper. And I said to them, 'Sorry, but I don't think you belong here. You know, this isn't helpful.' But they kept coming nonetheless."She laughs and then adds, "Ah, well, if I do forget lines, I just hope people will think, well, it's just some old lady. . . ." [...]

On the play:

I think audiences will find it quite funny, surprisingly so. And I hope they come away with more of an appreciation for living. I know I have just by learning it. This young boy lays it on the line in a very simple and direct manner."

Director Frank Dunlop on Ms Harris:

"Rosemary is not afraid to go too far and risk failure. She has an astonishing ability to be on the knife edge all the time," Dunlop says. "Within seconds, she can move an audience from laughter to tears. She can morph from a senior citizen to a 10-year-old boy. And although it's very serious subject matter -- a kid with inoperable cancer -- Rosemary makes this show about optimism rather than pessimism, about the joys of life rather than its sorrows, without ever dipping into sentimentality."

Again on the 'life' issue that relates to the play:

Life is a gift," she says softly. "As this play says, at first you think it belongs to you, that you'll have life everlasting. Then you think it stinks. It's too short and you almost want to throw it away. Then you realize maybe life isn't a gift after all -- it's just a loan. And you have to earn it in some way, you have to be worthy of deserving it."Harris pauses for a while and then adds with a laugh, "I love that line in the play, 'Any old moron can enjoy life when he's 10 or 20. But when you're a hundred, when you can't move anymore, you need to use your intelligence.' "
  • Regarding Ms Ehle, there are finally some semi-official words confirming casting of her newest project, The Russell Girl. As The Hollywood Reporter report:
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Jennifer Ehle, Tim DeKay and Henry Czerny have been cast opposite Amber Tamblyn in "The Russell Girl," a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for CBS that is entering production in Toronto.

The movie centers on Sarah Russell (Tamblyn), a 23-year-old aspiring medical school student who makes a rare visit to her small hometown to share some important news with her family but instead finds herself attempting to confront her past.

Mastrantonio and DeKay will play her parents, while Ehle and Czerny will play a couple who live across the street from her family.

The article also mentions that an airdate has yet to be decided upon. Playbill also announces the casting but adds no new information.
  • Variety's Eddie Cockrell meanwhile reviews Before the Rains. He is brief and seemingly more laudatory than not:

Largely predictable pic is tastefully designed, superbly photographed, competently acted and almost completely lacking in passion or tension ... the tech package is so clean and crisp, it actually detracts from supposedly raw emotions of the affair.

Last but not least, Contentions' Robert Peach shares a video interview with Mr Jack O'Brien. Essential viewing!

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