Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Actors in repertory

I've been having a lot of fun with Michael Goorjian in the last couple of days... in a purely electronic sense of the word, of course!

I first saw him as the high-functioning autistic Aaron Pratt in the "Caged" episode of CSI (from 2001) which aired a couple of days ago (Thank heaven for reruns). And I liked his character, and his performance, and whenever I see an actor do that kind of role, I want to see what they're "really" like.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to download his episodes from Monk and House via Amazon Unbox, and I've watched those. Never watched House before - although I like Hugh Laurie I can't stand medical dramas (I have too many chronic illnesses of my own that are killing me to want to watch doctors pluck a miracle cure out of a 45-minute time segment.)

Anyway.. impossible to enjoy House as the subject matter was so sad, Michael's character's pregnant wife refuses treatment to save her life so as not to harm her baby, and Michael goes from all happy and in love at the beginning of the episode to a teary-eyed widower with a baby at the end of it. Lots of emotion, very affecting, but not fun!

The Monk, episode, however, is a keeper. Michael has only 3 short scenes, but he steals the scenes in them all. The plot is that a severed pinkie finger is found in a park. Because of the position of a callous on the finger and the presence of rosin, Monk deduces it must come from a violist. So he and his assistant Natalie search through the city for missing 25-year old violinists and come up with Daniel Carlyle.

The visit Carlyle's house. His mother says there's nothing wrong, and "Daniel" (Michael) comes down the stairs carrying violin and bow and asks them to leave as he's rehearsing for a concert that night. He's holding one hand behind his back, Monk asks to see it, Michael displays it.

Then there's a couple of scenes of Michael - or rather his character Jacob - standing with his mother outside a phone box. Michael gets to pace around and act really nervous.

Next scene is a good one....it's all Michael. He and his mother are sitting on one side of the room, Monk and Natalie on the other. Long shot of them all for several seconds, and we're able to see Michael sitting there, clearly hyperventilating and stressed out. Then the camera closes in and everyone gets their closeups, etc., and Michael's character is soooo terrified...he's a rather wimpy character and Michael plays him to perfection.

There's a phone call from the kidnappers, we get reaction shots from Michael as he hears his mother tell the kidnapper (someone who would sever the finger from a violinist!) that her son will deliver the ransom, then she approaches him and he backs up and says, he can't do it, he'll mess it up.

This scene was disappointing in one sense, in that his mother has no reaction to this except to say, "I'll do it," instead of telling the guy to buck up... but she must know her son and how wimpy he is.

Then, Natalie points out that Mrs. Carlyle can't go. The kidnappers are expecting a man. And Monk says, "Yes, we'll have to find a man."

This is another point where the camera work lets Michael down. It's all in semi-long shot, one take -- He gets no reaction shot. He looks at Monk, starts to look at his mother as Monk says, "Yes, we'll have to find a man," and then looks back at Monk and just for a second his eyes squint as if he's wondering if Monk has just insulted his manhood, but then Monk immediately says, "Or I can do it." and the scene ends. He's in profile the whole time.

The final scene is a curious one. The kidnapped brother has been saved. Mrs. Carlyle and Michael are shown getting out of their car, then the mother arrives and hugs the son, then Michael arrives, and before he hugs his brother, he turns to look behind him.

And I'm wondering... why does he do that? Is it an extension of his cowardly persona, that he wants to make sure the kidnappers are definitely gone before he hugs his brother? Or are we to think... did he have anything to do with this kidnapping, and he doesn't want the kidnappers to see him to realize that he's the one who put them up to it (because, how did these particular kidnappers get the idea of kidnapping a violinist?). Or was it just Michael letting the camera get a shot of his face one last time?

Anyway, as I say, I've been having fun watching these episodes. Also, fortunately, Michael's CSI: Miami episode aired a couple of days ago to, and I recorded it on DVD. He's only got a two-minute long scene, if that, where he's being interrogated by a cop. He's a photographer, kind of scruffy looking, arrogant, quite cute. And accused of murder. He has a few lines of dialog which he delivers well...then the scene ends and that's it. Still, a completely different character from all the others I'd seen.

(As an aside, just now I put that CSI: Miami episode back in my DVD player and tried to watch it from the beginning instead of just skipping to Michael's scene. I had been chastised in a Blog Comment for my comments about David Caruso, and I gotta tell you... I stand by every one. After watching his opening scene on the show I just couldnt' stand it and had to turn it off. It's just too weird of a characterization for me....and his vocal delivery...

I enjoy watching the same actor give several different performances. (Indeed, it might be interesting to see David Caruso in something else, just to see if he can play a normal character, but I don't care enough about him as an actor to even look up his old stuff...)

One of the greatest years of my life, from an entertainment standpoint, was in the early 1990s in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Garland Wright was the director of the Guthrie Theater, and he put together a season of repertory that was absolutely fantastic. There were three plays, and each one would run a couple of days a week. And the same company played all the roles. So one day I'd see actor Charles Janasz as wimpy Richard II, the next day as a more macho character, the next day as a hilarious comedic actor. Same for Steve Yoakam, a couple of other actors also...

And it was just a joy to be able to see them demonstrate their "acting chops" on a day to day basis.

The tragedy about the Guthrie, and indeed, any live theater, is that it is live. An actor can give a fantastic performance, give three curtain calls at the end of it... and then its gone. No one will ever be able to see it again. I really wish each of those Guthrie plays that season had been perserved for posterity, even as a "photographed stage play" I'd love to relive those memories again...

Ah, well.

And all this has been a long build-up to share my new Michael Goorjian screencap page.
which I typically do for all actors I like.

So, next entry I'll get back on topic with science fiction!

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