Posts Tagged ‘Brian Zoldessy’

American Buffalo

May 11th, 2011 No comments

Donny and Teach grill Bobby

Brian Zoldessy, who directed my thesis play Patterns, does double-duty as Director and Teach in this gem of a production of American Buffalo at Tri-C East. By the time the play was over Zoldessy had so inhabited the character of Teach that I was disgusted by him: that is to say, it’s a fantastic performance and if you know Brian, you know that in many ways he’s perfect for the role. (Not to say that Zoldessy is a whiny-ass like Teach, because he’s not.)


From the moment Donny walks on (Noah Budin), you can sense that the production is going to be good. There is a presence like that of Dennis Franz both physically and in the resonance of the voice; and great attention has been paid to the iambic rhythms often employed by Mamet. The strength of the language comes through because all of the actors and Zoldessy clearly pay careful attention to what is said, how what is said is said, and, most importantly with a Mamet play, what is unsaid.

The set is wonderful with a strong sense of a rundown pawn show somewhere and the two main characters shine through as the paranoiac losers they are; with the only faithful and redeeming character, Bobby (Justin Robinson), a down-on-his-luck junky being all too willing to become like the losers he idolizes. The appalling inversion of morality that takes place in this play makes it worth seeing again if you haven’t seen it in a while and worth seeing for the first time if you’ve never seen it.

A big plus is that Zoldessy and Tri-C do a great job.

Austin Pendleton

February 26th, 2011 No comments

Was watching an interview/discussion with Austin Pendleton on Theater Talk. It is a wonderful interview with plenty of insight into acting, directing, and theater relationships. Pendleton was talking about his upcoming productions of both Three Sisters and Detroit. Detroit is on the cover of American Theatre, either this month or last month, including the full text of the play. With Three Sisters I can only think of the Wooster Group production and Willem Dafoe speaking in his wispy, mellow way.

Anyway, the other night I was watching Zoldessy choreograph the movements of the actors in the East Storefront. He kept having them move and the he’d stop and think about it for a bit and then he’d talk about it and then he’d have everyone go back and run through the movement again. Zoldessy must have spend :30 minutes or :40 minutes on a page-and-a-half of the play, and I could tell the actors were getting antsy and there were only 10 pages left in the play and the hour was getting late, etc.

It was at this moment that I remembered the interview with Pendleton. In that interview he recounted how Jerome Robbins, during a 1964 production of Fiddler on the Roof spent 6 hours staging and re-staging a scene that was all of 5 minutes on stage. Now, Robbins could get away with it because he had paid actors who were acting as their job. Nonetheless, Robbins was, according to Pendleton, very committed to telling the story, that is, making the reality of the characters and their relationships truthful and real. The 5 minute scene was the family preparing for the Sabbath, and Robbins felt that the scene showed relationships and established character and was important enough to examine and block again and again until it was just right.

Pendleton then talked about his first gig as a director and how he blocked out the whole play in his mind. And then, with some other play that he was directing he didn’t get the chance to do that and felt awful about it, and unprepared, but, to his chagrin, discovered an organic approach, what he referred to as “expressive blocking.” Pendleton felt that this kind of experimenting is important and characterized it as working with clay, but you’re working with actors. And once the actors are interacting you begin to see things.

Jarod and I were at Happy Dog the other day talking about how much Zoldessy is bringing out in the play that is not apparent in the text, and much of this has to do with this process.

Pendleton also attributed a heuristic to Kazan, I think, that when it comes to successfully staging a play that it’s 80% casting, and 18% the ground plan: a ground plan that is expressive of the story.

Pendleton also talked about approaches to directing actors, including spending a certain amount of time at the table discussing the scene. What’s the event in the scene that moves the story forward. How are things different at the end of this scene than they were at the outset. Very traditional in that respect.

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