Theater archives

Score Isolates Snippets of Bernstein, But Their Sum Never Equals Lenny


Artistically speaking, Leonard Bernstein had so many personalities that he could only have been one person: the flamboyantly demonstrative conductor; the tormented, deeply introspective classical composer; the exhilaratingly brash spinner of popular show tunes; the caring, charismatic educator; the quiet family man who was also a manic parlor entertainer; the monster of ego who was also master of the generous gesture. Locating the root of Bernstein’s creativity is no easy task, and director Anne Bogart’s attempt to pin it down is about as successful as if she were trying to catch lightning in a jar; all that results are some interesting flickers and a frustrating sense of ultimate emptiness.

The third in Bogart’s series of meditations on creativity for a solo performer, again using texts compiled from the subject’s public utterances by dramaturg Jocelyn Clarke, Score is marginally more interesting than its immediate predecessor, Room, first, because physical and vocal presence played a more significant part in Bernstein’s creativity than it did in Virginia Woolf’s, and second, because Tom Nelis, who plays Bernstein, is an accomplished and technically flexible actor. Even so, the snippets of Bernstein text and posture that Bogart gives to Nelis, drawing heavily from Lenny’s “Unanswered Question” lectures at Harvard, do little to illuminate the mysteries of his artistry, and still less (with the exception of one rapturous delving into Mahler) to convey much about what made Bernstein himself an important figure. Replicating the maestro’s moves and vocal tricks as he gamely jumps (sometimes literally) from one snippet to the next, Nelis looks, alas, only like a replica; to watch a video of Bernstein giving a complete lecture would convey more of his creative essence than all of Bogart’s gimmicky shadowboxing.