Monday, December 6, 2010

No Chance

David Boyle in Being Sellers
Being Sellers
Written by Carl Caulfield

Directed by Simon Green
Starring David Boyle

Performances through December 12, 2010
59 E 59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street

Peter Sellers was a notoriously mercurial star who wore so many masks while starring in so many movies that he was also able to hide his true feelings, if not his personal life. Carl Caulfield's Being Sellers attempts to break through that barrier, but this too-brief play only skims the surface of a staggering comic talent.

The setting is a hospital room where Sellers is recovering from an unnamed illness. (He died of a massive heart attack in 1980 at age 54.) In a nearly hour-long monologue, Sellers recounts his life from childhood to the army to early show biz to stardom. Along the way, we hear his signature portrayals in snatches, notably Dr. Strangelove, Inspector Clouseau and the Goon Show. Surprisingly, despite the title, there’s no reference to Being There’s Chance the Gardener, possibly his best onscreen performance.

Caulfield’s single idea, executed adequately by director Simon Greene, remains undernourished: we find out precious little about Sellers than we already knew. David Boyle has an elastic, doughy baby-face like Sellers and looks uncannily like the actor in profile, but his mimicking is more conscientious than inspired.

Mentions or imitations of Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields, Spike Mulligan, Richard Burton, Charlie Chaplin, Britt Ekland, Winston Churchill and even Adolf Hitler don’t provide any further insight into Sellers’ life and art. If Being Sellers is supposed to tell us that it’s impossible to discover what was inside the mind of a comic genius, then it’s a success.

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