Last night at the opening of the 33rd William Inge Festival, we saw a staged reading of Arthur Kopit’s play BecauseHeCan. It’s described as a “techno-thriller,” and it was really quite good; a tale of intrigue, doubt, deceit, and mistrust all bound together by the internet and its virtual reality capabilities.
One of the readers was Barry Bostwick, an actor with a long list of stage and screen credits, not the least of which includes Danny Zuko in Grease and the mayor on Spin City. He was part of a good ensemble directed by Jane Unger.
Doing a play in a reading makes it sound like there is something lacking; there’s no set, no costumes, few if any props, and the actors stand on the stage behind music stands reading off a script. How can the audience expect to get a sense of the play and the characters if that’s all they have to go with?
Actually, a lot. In the hands of good actors, a script can come alive by the words alone, and a good director who trusts both the word and the ability of the actors can make the play come to life with as much depth and nuance as if they had all the trimmings. All it takes is for them to trust both the play and themselves.
(Full disclosure: This coming Sunday night, my play Can’t Live Without You will be done in a staged reading at SoBe Arts on Miami Beach. Therefore I’ve been thinking a lot about staged readings for the last couple of weeks.)