When most people think of the theater their feelings typically center around the final production and the moment the curtain raises on the premiere night of a performance. To the cast and crew of a theatrical production, opening night especially is a most precious and unparalleled experience, the culmination of exhaustive preparation and countless hours aimed at showcasing the work in its final form. Director Richard Linklater’s latest offering, Me & Orson Welles, explores the world of the theater through the eyes of one talented, yet self absorbed director (Christian McKay) as he aims to orchestrate a production of Caesar, his most challenging and ambitious show to date. Linklater gives the audience a backstage pass to the making of a Broadway show and an instruction in just what it takes to succeed in the wicked business of the stage. Through this platform the audience is thrust into a world where all is put on the line for sake of a successful opening night.

 

Orson Welles is rightfully painted as a pompous, yet well deserving theater director, known for his audacious vision and unique perspective as he puts his signature stamp on the worlds most well known plays. Me and Orson Wells exposes this man through the eyes of highschool senior Richard, (Zac Efron) as he manages to catch the auteur’s eye at an unlikely generous moment. By a stroke of luck Richard is hastily given the small yet important role of Lucias, and despite only partaking in only two small scenes becomes an integral part of the overall production. Almost immediately Richard is thrust into a glittering life of titanic egos and illicit affairs where his own morals are put to the test as he questions whether or not he should stand up to the man that could make or break him.

 

As the dynamic version of Caesar begins to take form with multi-talented Welles as a major player, the audience is shown the true meaning of “hurry up and wait.” When the ever-so-self-righteous director finally enters the performance hall, he continues on with a yelling fervor that only demands his willing cast to tackle yet another version of an already perfected scene. As the group lingers patiently for their master, naive Richard begins to learn about the great man’s many incestuous romances and is somewhat eager to participate in the dire quest for one such blond assistant Sonja, (Claire Danes). This initial schoolboy crush becomes an infatuation that may turn out to be detrimental to both his young heart and his career.

 

Linklater creates a world in a forgotten New York City of old, at a time where the arts were well respected and the many sexual encounters are disguised by code names, letters and the ever important quadruple space innuendo. This elegant film manages to embrace the city of the 1930’s while at the same time maintaining a style that will resonate with the audience of today. Christian McKay gives a commanding performance as Orsen Welles – having played the mercurial man on stage before in the one-man show Rosebud: The Life of Orsen Welles – managing to simultaneously allow the other actors including Efron and Danes a platform to embrace their character as well.

McKay allows Welles to control the stage without overshadowing the other actors within the context of the film thus providing a very well coordinated ensemble. Although much of the film exists within the confines of the Caesar prodution, the actors make a precise distinction to embrace the theater roles from the perspective of their character persona. The witty rapport between the cast is infectious as they often reference the superstition in a banter that can only exist between true comrades. Linklater proves to again bring an organic life to the cinema by creating memorable sequences out of situations other directors may find inconsequential. By incorporating these details into the film, the audience can experience the theater and fully understand the love, passion and sometimes heartbreak that goes into the production of a Broadway Show.

Starring: Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin, Zoe Kazan

Director: Richard Linklater

Runtime: 107 Minutes

Distributor: Freestyle Releasing

Rating: PG-13

 

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