Watching Harry Clarke I was reminded of the 1968 Pasolini film Teorama which starred Terrance Stamp in his prime. In that story, a beautiful young man called only “The Visitor” arrived at a bourgeois Italian family home and had palliative sexual affairs with everyone in the house, including the maid. When he left as abruptly as arriving, each confronted life differently.
Here, the very good looking Billy Crudup plays Midwesterner Philip Brugglestein, a born outsider who decides at the age of eight that he’s not speaking in his own voice and assumes a British accent. When the protagonist is able to flee a small town and come to New York City, the accent enables imagination to expand. Living hand to mouth, he takes advantage of circumstances and inveigles his way into the bosom of the rich Schmidt family with no more motivation than that of an enthusiastic tourist.
The first time Philip is questioned by Mark Schmidt, he spontaneously identifies himself as Harry Clarke, not only a Londoner, but a cockney. He was, Philip tells the stranger, for 20 years the tour manager and personal friend of singer Sade Adu, known as Sade, one of many fluent, colorful lies. Despite the fact that he sounds lower class, must seem uneducated, and undoubtedly looks fairly impoverished, he’s welcomed by the family for reasons of assumed star proximity and his obvious, if unalluded-to attractiveness. Harry beds them all with ingenuousness.
The point of playwright David Cale’s piece doesn’t seem to be its unresolved journey, but rather a look at the mercurial Harry and opportunity for an actor to embody multiple personalities. (Cale performs solo works. One assumes he wrote this for himself.) Billy Crudup does this with skill, segueing back and forth from Harry’s three, count-m, accents, his father, and the Schmidts, men and women alike.
Our hero speaks and moves like a rabbit, quickly, instinctively, eagerly. Though occasionally these attributes overlap personification of Mark Schmidt, Crudup mostly keeps his characters separate, changing with speed and precision. The actor vibrates with theatrical focus through the entire production.
Though character representation is good, Director Leigh Silverman doesn’t do much with her actor in terms of gesture or movement.
Alexander Dodge’s minimal Scenery is immeasurably enhanced by eloquent, mood-shifting Lighting Design by Alan C. Edwards.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Harry Clarke by David Cale
Starring Billy Crudup
Directed by Leigh Silverman
108 East 15th Street
Through December 17, 2017