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STAGE REVIEW : Acting Out Boleslavsky’s ‘Six Lessons’

Actors should make a beeline for the Chandler Studio, in an obscure corner of North Hollywood, to see Michael Holmes’ staged adaptation of Richard Boleslavsky’s “Acting: The First Six Lessons.”

In acting theory, Boleslavsky was a bridge between the Moscow Art Theatre and New York, between Stanislavsky and his American students. In 1933, Boleslavsky wrote these “First Six Lessons” in the form of dialogues between himself and a young actress whom he dubbed “The Creature.” They’re a lively disquisition in print, but Holmes makes them even sprightlier in the theater.

Holmes plays Boleslavsky (known here as “B”) as an authoritative middle-aged taskmaster. At first he doesn’t hide his disdain for “The Creature,” but he begins to relent as “The Creature” gradually demonstrates her commitment to the craft, as well as her talent. Finally, he can hardly contain his enthusiasm for the transformation he sees taking place in his student.

By George, he thinks she’s got it.

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Holmes’ “B” is more businesslike than Henry Higgins; He would never ask “The Creature” to fetch his slippers, nor would he sing about how he’s grown accustomed to her face.

All the same, one can see how anyone would want to become accustomed to the face of Stephanie McGurn as “The Creature.” She is a radiant young actress, credible both as the awkward novitiate and as the self-assured star. According to the program, this is McGurn’s professional debut; it’s a remarkably auspicious one (but then, Boleslavsky urges beginning actors to ignore praise from critics).

Two other characters show up in the later lessons, and Darlene Conley is especially funny as the theater-loving “Aunt” who doesn’t understand why “The Creature” continues to study with “B,” even after she’s a star. Hugh McPhillips plays a charming theater doorman.

Considering that the theater is of the tiny storefront variety, the production values are extremely smooth; the costumes, props and a detailed sound design are all notably right. A brief preface, with “B” alone on stage, is expendable, but otherwise this is a graceful and enlightening experience.

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And it’s free of charge.

At 12443 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood, Fridays through Sundays at 8 p.m., through Nov. 6. (818) 786-1045.


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