All's Welles

Orson's Shadow gets inside the actors

Considered by many to be the greatest English-speaking actor of all time, Sir Laurence Olivier set the standard for generations of thespians. Orson Welles, who scared the hell out of the country with his War of the Worlds radio drama, is heralded as nothing short of an American cinematic legend. But these Hollywood untouchables had demons that revealed them as mere mortals. Those more human elements are on display in Orson's Shadow. Set in the golden age of Hollywood, the play spotlights how the ghosts of maturity and regret haunt titans Olivier and Welles, who clash deliciously -- and horribly.

A fictionalized story of real events, Orson's Shadow unmasks the witty but ferocious feuding that occurs when ego meets ego in Welles and Olivier's 1960 collaboration as director and actor in the play Rhinoceros. Fumbling to revive their lives and careers, the two reduce each other to their rawest selves: two old guys clawing to stay on top at any price.

"Age is a bitch, and that theme is universal," says director David Cromer. "All your life, you never stop wanting to be reborn as something better than you are, no matter who you are," he explains. "It's playful and sexy that [the play] uses celebrities, who we all love, to explore these ideas." Yes, that's right: Orson Welles (no fat jokes, please) is sexy.
April 5-30

 
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