Orson’s Shadow: A Theatrical Review
Written by Austin Pendleton and directed by Ricci Dedola, Orson’s Shadow is a spectacular program with intelligence, entertainment, and success written all over it. The Long Beach Playhouse has once again met all the expectations of a theatre critic with a splendid production that has all it needs for massive success.
Robert Edward, who portrays Orson Wells, seems to have found within himself everything he has needed to embody this overwhelmingly powerful icon of Hollywood history. Jonathan Lewis, portraying Ken, matches Edward’s power and intellect in such a fashion as to carry the program with power and intrigue throughout. These two men are accompanied by a cast of co-stars that each, in and of themselves, are highly capable performers and only serve to compliment these two powerhouse leads.
This production is one that forces it’s viewer to deal with the struggles that come from early powerhouse success in one’s career, never to be able to match up to that same success again, but to live one’s life in the shadow of one’s self, always trying to re-capture that high again, if not to surpass it. For some it like a drug addiction, the struggle to find and achieve that high achieved in one’s early career. For others it is simply not having found the success that they needed as a morally and ethically respected individual that earns the trust and respect of the others you work with and around. In Wells case, it was his temper, his demanding and perfectionist approach that ended his career. After Citizen Cane and later War of the Worlds, Wells never knew the joy, respect, power, or ability he had ever known previously. He left this world a frustrated individual who was unsatisfied and unfulfilled. If anything, this production, while being both very funny and entertaining, is a lesson on how to live life. We must all learn from the failures of individuals like Wells and Olivier, that life has both ups and downs. We will all experience both. The question of whether there will be more downs than ups depends on who we are, how we live our lives, and what it is that we invest ourselves in. Do we do what we do for ourselves alone? Or, is there a higher and more powerful calling and conviction that drives us forward? It is essential to understand that the greatest Golden Rule is what you do for others, not what you do for yourself.
The California Theatre Critic