Like a master class with an accomplished teacher, "Clurman" offers indelible insights both into a theatrical legend and the mysteries of the theatre itself. Ronald Rand has written a heartfelt tribute to the late director-author-critic Harold Clurman, and portrays him at age 79 as he looks back on his roller-coaster career in the arts.
Speaking to his unseen assistant and a few visiting students, Clurman settles down behind the cluttered desk in his New York apartment in June 1980, humorously recounting his personal and professional experiences. But soon the spry septuagenarian is up and about, energetically and eloquently advocating his philosophy on the significance of theatre in society. He recalls stumbling into show business; helping to form the Group Theatre; writing his seminal book, "The Fervent Years"; and staging classic plays in the U.S. and abroad. But mostly he imparts his love of life and the endless possibilities it offers.
While strolling and sidestepping down his own personal memory lane, Clurman comes into contact with some formidable colleagues, including Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, Sandy Meisner, Katharine Hepburn, and Marlon Brando. Rand not only gives a convincing and colorful portrayal of the title character, but also imitates many of the celebrities he encounters with impressive vocal dexterity.
Director Gregory Abels is in sync with Rand every step of the way, keeping the memories magical and the mood merry. He stages each scene with grace and wit, expertly utilizing Rand's dramatic and comedic abilities.
The Ballroom Theatre at Century Center provides a perfectly elegant backdrop for the play, and Graham Kindred lights the proceedings with a warm, embracing glow. Bob Laden serves as makeup consultant, but could probably tone down the makeup and gray hair dye, for Rand's Clurman, despite his age, is as youthful and excitable as a kid in a candy store.