So I finally saw Peter’s show, the one I’ve mentioned a few times already: it’s being produced by almost every theater in the country this season; I got a chance to read part of it as a work-in-progress but didn’t know how it ended; etc.
I’m going to assume that you’ve seen it (since it closes tomorrow), and that you know it’s a great play, and that you know Peter is a hilarious writer, and that you now finally know this play’s got a killer ending. So instead…let’s talk about Joan Mankin.
Wow! Joan plays Barbara and part of her job is talking to the audience. But unlike a lot of actors who address the audience by talking over the audiences’ heads, or just sort of facing in the general direction of the audience while appearing to talk to an invisible person — Joan talks to the audience. She’s mesmerizing and charming and seems utterly spontaneous for every second of her performance.
I’m going to attribute it not only to her brilliance as an actor but to her years as a Pickle Family Circus clown. I’ve found that every actor that’s ever done clowning — Joan Mankin, Bill Irwin, Geoff Hoyle, Ron Campbell, to name a few — has a way of bringing that thing that theater people always say is the whole point of theater but don’t always provide: the liveness of the performance.
At boom, you were simultaneously sucked into the reality of the scenes happening in front of you and yet somehow never forgot that you were an audience watching a play. Quite an experience. And one I’ll attribute to both Joan Mankin, because I really like actors who used to be clowns, and Peter Nachtrieb, because I’m a playwright and thus my default is to attribute anything I like in a production to the writer.