You can expect a new section here on the blog from now on called “Starperformances”. It will be a more focused review of, in my opinion, the star of each performance I see.
“The Lady From Dubuque” wasn’t that exciting until Maggie Smith entered the stage. Many plays have an introductory first half, where you get to know the characters, and save all the good stuff for the second half. In this play, saving Maggie Smith for the second half was like saving the best for last. As soon as she set foot on the stage and said, “Are we in time? Is this the right place? Yes, we are in time. This is the place” I know at least I sat up in my chair and willed the break to be over before it had begun.
Maggie Smith has perfect comedy/sarcastic timing. There had been some good one-liners in part one, but they all pretty much faded once Maggie delivered one well-executed line after the other, making me not only sit up in my chair but lean forward in order to not miss a thing. She delivered her lines, totally dead-pan, which made them even funnier. She didn’t even have to say much to make me chuckle. Like when Carol told her she was actually a blonde and her reply was a simple, “Really?” There are many ways of delivering a line – or, in this case, a word – and she said that really in a way that meant more than if she had given a four-page monologue.
Some actors have enough presense to make you notice them on a stage. Some don’t. Then there are a selected few that have enough stage-presense to fill the entire stage on their own. Maggie Smith has that gift, and in “The Lady From Dubuque” she made me wait in anticipation for every line she was about to deliver. No wonder she managed to convince everyone she was Jo’s mother.