The Play's The Thing?
For a long time I've had trouble with most one-man or one-woman shows where an actor portrays some famous figure for an evening's entertainment. I'm not denying they can be enjoyable, but is it drama? That generally comes from the clash of two or more characters, not one person relating a series of anecdotes.
review in the LA Times of Freud's Last Session, featuring Judd Hirsch as Freud and Tom Cavanagh as C.S. Lewis, and it got me thinking. The action has them meeting and arguing for their viewpoints. It's only the latest of a number of such plays featuring a couple (or three of four) famous people having a meeting--sometimes fictional, sometimes based on a real meeting--where the playwright dramatizes what they said and did. For instance, there's the highly regarded Copenhagen, featuring Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, or The Meeting, with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
Okay, we've got two (or more) people with opposing goals, and that can make for drama, but there's something else that's troublesome. These are not characters invented by the playwright. Not entirely, anyway. These are famous people. So rather than being required to create characters that will hold our attention, the playwright starts with an advantage--names we're intrigued by before we've bought our ticket. So I've got to ask, would I care if these were two characters I'd never heard of before? Because if I wouldn't, then the show is closer to a stunt than a good play.