.home | art & architecture | books & cds | dance | destinations | film | opera | television | theater | archives ..
Like so many
people stricken with genius, Orson Welles was full of contradictions. The ego was large, but so was the talent. It is no exaggeration to say that he burst upon
the American cultural scene. His 1938 radio broadcast of H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds was so
convincing that many listeners were panic-stricken, convinced that a real attack on Earth
was underway. His fame and celebrity came
earlyCitizen Kane was released the
week of his 26th birthdaybut the rest of his career seemed like an
In 1942, at age 27, Welles was in Rio de Janeiro making a film for the war effort and was awaiting the release of his next film, The Magnificent Ambersons. Using this moment as his starting point, writer/actor Marcus Wolland created a one-act monologue for the 2001 Seattle Fringe Festival that has been video-taped by StageDirect. Originally titled Lost Eden, StageDirect has renamed the taped version The Magnificent Welles.
Wolland portrays Welles at the time when his meteoric career began to falter. Welles/Wolland takes the audience into his confidence, summarizing the early years of his career in a manner that captures his wily, personable ways. Youthful bravado is mixed with charm and petulance. This demonstration of self is interspersed with telephone conversations with men in Hollywood who were involved in the making of Ambersons. Gradually Welles realizes that he has lost control of his film. In the telephone conversations, he increasingly becomes incredulous of his situation. A small percentage of negative opinions written on cards at a sneak preview of the film cause the men in charge to re-edit the film, eliminating substantial footage and changing the ending. Indeed, Ambersons became a cause celebre for those who decry the mendacious authority wielded by film studios.
Wolland bears a remarkable resemblance to Welles, and his performance is thoroughly convincing. There are enough suggestions of the real persona to inspire an urge to go back and look at Welles work again.
- Larry Campbell