Irene Worth on Patricia Clarkson: Frighteningly Good

Isn't she a marvelously urgent actress? Tyrone Guthrie always urged me to be a perilous 

actress. He loved menace; he loved the activity of thought. He loathed action that wasn't

 accompanied by thought and purpose, and so he stressed preparation, study, the creation 

of a rich background that would propel your character into theatrical reality. I can feel 

Miss Clarkson's preparation, her thought, She has great urgency in her talent, both its 

husbandry and its delivery. She burns very brightly and quickly, like a poem by Keats, all 

burners on, aware of time running out, interest and energy running out, engaging in 

service to her playwright, her fellow players, her audiences. I want to see her in 

everything. I think she would be marvelous in so many parts that have baffled so many 

actresses--Giradoux's Duel of Angels; she'd be a maddeningly seductive and exasperating 

Mary Stuart; Cleopatra; her Winnie in Happy Days [by Samuel Beckett] would be 

amazing--you have to have a marvelous voice and intelligence to play that part, and she 

could. She would make--already has made--the act of being subsumed terrifying and 

seductive, and that is so much of Winnie. She would also be a brilliant Princess [in 

Tennessee's Sweet Bird of Youth, a part for which Miss Worth received one of her Tony 

Awards], aware, I think, of the humor in the play, the gamesmanship of sex, the need for 

sex, the advertisement of operating glands being indicative of life, of purpose, a promise of 

other methods of operation. The Princess burns brightly too--or should, and she needs to 

slice across the stage. She needs to remind the audience of how big she really is, has been, 

always will be. Frighteningly good, frighteningly plangent. A crystal goblet full of the 

sweetest cream.

© 2014  James Grissom


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