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Beau Bridges and daughter Emily show how it’s done in “Six Lessons”

Posted By Karen Young On May 6, 2010 @ 1:04 am In Arts & Culture,Featured,My Daily Find,Theater | No Comments

BY JACKIE HOUCHIN

After an amusing introduction to himself, his daughter, and the play they are about to perform, Beau Bridges steps back in time to 1933 to become the mature and experienced “Teacher” in Richard Boleslavsky’s iconic book “ACTING The First Six Lessons,” adapted by the Bridges and directed by Charlie Mount, now playing at Theatre West.

His daughter, Emily Bridges becomes “Creature,” his enthusiastic but very “green” young student.

Beau Bridges and daughter, Emily Bridges.

At first meeting, Creature insists that he teach her “the art of acting.” Granted, her only experience thus far has been to play King Lear in a school production, but she was told by many (well, by her adoring Auntie) that she has talent.

At his suggestion, she reprises a scene from that play in a performance so exuberant, so over-the-top god-awful, it elicits good-natured laughter from the audience as well as dismay from the Teacher. He sees, as do we, how far Creature must advance if she hopes for a career on the stage.

“I WILL play!” she proclaims passionately when he suggests she isn’t talented. But when he attempts to teach her the first basic steps, beginning with “concentration” (he suggests she “hear” a mouse scratching or a rousing band marching), she bursts into tears of frustration and runs out.

In the brief scene that follows, we see Beau as the stage manager at an audition, with Creature struggling to attain her focus and concentration.

When she finally returns to the Teacher’s Studio, a year has passed. She’s been working diligently on what he taught, but confesses there’s something missing. The Teacher is surprised but pleased to see her, and quickly moves on to Lesson 2: how “memories of emotions” can enrich one’s acting. He illustrates his point with a sweet story about cucumbers and an elderly couple.

Later Emily plays the fashionable, pompous Auntie, come to tell the Teacher a thing or two about her niece’s talent. She learns Lesson 5 (“observation”) when he gets her to play a child’s game while they’re having tea.

Over the play’s ninety minutes (it’s performed without intermission) these two capable actors portray in alternating scenes of instruction and experience, the simple yet profound techniques and truths in Boleslavsky’s book. As she masters the “Six Lessons” Creature matures and grows as a person as well as an actress, while Teacher gradually, happily, releases her to her future.

Beau delivers a strong performance as the wise old instructor. You know he’s studied and learned Boleslavsky’s lessons well, perhaps even more so while working with his daughter on this adaptation. (Are those glints of real-life pride we occasionally see in his eyes?)

Emily’s portrayal of Creature’s transformation from dewy-fresh “enfant” to poised maven of the theatre is astounding. Her acting ability is surely inherited as well as learned, and yet she stands in her own strength in this production. A performance worth the ticket price. Brava!

In a “Talk Back” session after the play Beau and Emily talk candidly about the book that’s become a “Bible” to their family. Beau’s father (Lloyd Bridges) swore by it, and gave it to each of his children. Beau carried on the tradition with his kids. “It’s the only book on acting that I have,” he admits.

So entertaining and enlightening is the play based on that book, many in the audience took the opportunity to purchase a copy in the lobby after the show.

“ACTING The First Six Lessons” plays Fridays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through May 16. General admission is $18.00 and $20.00, with varying discounts for seniors, veterans, military and students. For reservations call (323) 851-7977, or visit www.theatrewest.org Theatre West is located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd, Lost Angeles, CA 90068. There is FREE parking in a lot across the street.

Jackie Houchin is a freelance theater reviewer, covering plays, musicals and readings for the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. She also reviews books for several mystery magazines and writes articles for a local biweekly newspaper.  www.jackiehouchin.com

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