STEPHEN LANG CONTINUES TO AMAZE
Film Review by Fiore
I have been bragging of late about the thespian talents of Stephen Lang. He is the only bright spot in the otherwise forgettable DON’T BREATHE, and his portrayal of Increase Mather on WGN’s SALEM is so powerful, they brought him back for season two, even though he died in season one. Now, he appears in a rather clever presentation of his one-man stage performance, BEYOND GLORY.
Larry Smith wrote a book detailing the lives of various war heroes who won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Lang took selections from the book, and wrote a one man play. The oeuvre covers war heroes from World War II through the Vietnam War. He has been performing the play since 2003, from theatres in Manhattan, to military bases in the Middle East. The performance provides an intimate look at the personalities of the men who garnered the highest honor America offers, and the emotional impact their actions produced.
Director Larry Brand followed Lang on numerous appearances of BEYOND GLORY. The film edits various performances together, to produce the entire show. The editing provides stark contrast between desert camps, aircraft carrier decks and swank theatres. The one constant, whether it’s a few service men or a full auditorium, is Lang.
Personally, I’ve always liked one-man stage performances. It’s fascinating to see an actor reveal the persona of another for over an hour with nothing but a set and a few props. I’ve had the privilege of seeing exceptionally talented actors, like Christopher Plumber, Faye Dunaway and Pittsburgh’s own Frank Gorshin perform in one-man plays. Gorshin’s show of George Burns is especially memorable.
But, Lang portrays not one, but eight different people of various ethnic and racial backgrounds. With the aid of nothing more than a chest full of props, he switches effortlessly between the characters, bringing to the forefront universal truths shared by all of them: A love for their country and their fellow man, driving ordinary men to do extraordinary things.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE STUDIO SCENES
2. THE HELICOPTER INTERRUPTION
3. THE TRANSFORMATIONS
4. SITTING WITH THE BLACK SOLDIERS
Helping Lang with his performance, in a narrator’s voice-over is Gary Sinise. Sinise has long been involved with supporting the military, especially the veterans. As a part of BEYOND GLORY, he adds gravitas to the work’s reason d’etre.
While the stories of these eight men are intriguing, it is Lang’s performance that mesmerizes. Accents, diction, mannerisms all shift with ease. In fact, if the performance has one flaw, it’s that sometimes the transformations between roles is so quick, it takes time to realize someone new is speaking.
BEYOND GLORY attempts to capture the magic of Lang’s performance on stage. Sound effects, digital video screens, props, Sinise’s voice-over and computer graphics all combine to make the film as intimate as the show. It makes for a fascinating view; though I must admit, with my fondness for one-man stage performances, I’d like to see Lang’s live show even more now that I’ve seen the film.
THE GRADE FOR BEYOND GLORY = B