I am a fan of French Stewart’s work, both on television (“3rd Rock From The Sun”) and stage. So, it was with high expectations that I and two industry pals happily accepted the offer of free tickets to “Stoneface”, at the appropriately old-timey Pasadena Playhouse, in which Mr. Stewart stars as Buster Keaton. Alas and alack, our excitement had totally fizzled out by intermission, as had that of a few dozen other audience members who did not return for Act II. We did stick it out and I must admit Act II was better – perhaps because it was shorter, I really don’t know.
The production itself is gorgeous: the staging, the special effects and the costumes are superb. Unfortunately, the writing is…and I rarely use this word!…a bore. Although there wasn’t a “bad” performer among them, even the best of the ensemble had a hard time making us care about their characters, which included Fatty Arbuckle, Louis B. Mayer, Norma Talmadge, Georgie Jessel and of course, Charlie Chaplin. Mr. Stewart seems like the perfect fit for Keaton, with his own hangdog face, but somehow, we just didn’t care much if he was having a good day or a bad one. Had this been a film, the time-honored device of flashbacks might have worked; on stage, with nothing but projected title cards (a la silent movies) to tell us what year we were in, I’m afraid all they did was confuse us and interrupt the flow of the narrative.
I wish I could find something truly positive to say about this show – I really do. But all of us couldn’t wait to get out of the theater that night. I’m sorry, Mr. Stewart and company: Perhaps a different director could pull it all together and give it some life, because I honestly don’t believe that this many good actors could conspire to bore an obviously receptive audience to the extent that we witnessed the other night. Especially considering the origins of the play at Sacred Fools, one of the best theater companies in L.A. Oh, well, you win some, you lose some. We lost three hours of our lives.
– Kris Malone