"Each [train] passing leaves one less to pass," Charlie reflects. (The line gets a laugh, derived from Benedict's corrosive tone.) "So the night recedes too," he continues. "Until at last it might die and join all the other nights in Nirvana." (Another laugh.) "The Big Night of Nights. And that's life." Jaw-dropped, Erie stares at Charlie -- a moment in which Pacino, the actor and director, nails the comedy of Erie's hubris and incomprehension.
Pacino's greatness as an actor is tempered in Hughie by his muted awareness of -- even playing to -- the audience, Pacino playing Pacino, thereby nudging O'Neill's ode to loneliness further in the direction of a sitcom than does the author credit. Good thing Pacino premiered his version in New York. Had it opened here, they'd all say it's just another Hollywood showcase.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF MEMORY PLAY TOOK PLACE last week at the packed Canon Theater, where a memorial service (with songs, prepared statements and a videotape presentation) was held for Ron Link, whose sudden death in surgery last month stunned the theater communities here and in New York. Link, in his 50s (the people who know his exact age aren't saying), was a theater director who came up through the East Coast and spent the better part of two decades directing dozens of some of the most visceral and thrilling productions this city has seen -- including Women Behind Bars, Bouncers, Delirious, Melody Jones, Twist of Fate, Stand-up Tragedyand Gravity Shoes. Probably most familiar -- because of its run at the Mark Taper Forum -- is his staging of Oliver Mayer's boxing drama, Blade to the Heat: in Link's care as much a dance as a play, a blend of artistry with street-smarts.
In one of the evening's reminiscences, playwright John Bunzel recounted how Link practically choreographed his realistic play, Delirious, about cokeheads, and how the psychology followed after. "He made the experimental accessible . . . He made the unorthodox mainstream."
"I want you to yell your lines from the minute you arrive on stage to the minute you leave," he instructed Caroline Aaron, an actor in Tom Eyen's comedy The Neon Women. Aaron said she protested that she'd rather carve an arc from the play, at which Link barked back: "Listen, bitch, these faggots want to hear you scream." She indeed screamed all her lines, and got rave reviews.
"Living in Hollywood is a little scarier without Ron here," Aaron noted.
Capping a video clip was the caption: "The End." Several hundred people rose to their feet in an ovation that lasted almost two minutes -- the one standing ovation I've seen this year that was actually deserved.
HUGHIE| By EUGENE O'NEILL | Featuring and directed by AL PACINO | At the MARK TAPER FORUM, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown | Through July 25