People who have trained up on film and tv acting from the very start of their career, practically from infancy, are not necessarily ever going to have acquired stage presence or stage skills. When, at the end, Harry and Sally become another screened couple in their friend's installation of couples talking about how they met, those reviewers who had not snuck out during the curtain calls, and the inexplicable standing ovation, were reminded - they told me - just how much screen presence Alyson Hannigan and Luke Perry have.
Those three minutes indicate what 'When Harry Met Sally' should have been - a remake of the Meg Ryan/Billy Crystal vehicle, on film, and not on stage. Problems with vocal projection that people who saw the previews had largely disappeared - Alyson and Luke's voices now fill the theatre - but what is essentially still a movie script does not work on a stage with a proscenium arch.
Part of the trouble with the production is that the designers has gone out of their way to set the stage as if it were a screen - quite literally, most of the sets are in a 15:6 widescreen visual aspect ratio. This perverse use of the stage - parts of which are often cut off to the side or upwards, so that the characters are in small rooms, or standing behind a penthouse parapet, or leaning up against a bar - means that there are real restrictions on how much the actors can move. You take two actors who are going to have trouble with stage work, and then you put them in the most artificial stage environment imaginable.
I suspect the whole thing would have been easier to watch in the round, in a smaller space like the Donmar Warehouse, where the blocking and lines of sight would be more 'natural' - but the Donmar could never afford to pay for Alyson Hannigan, Luke Perry and Jamie Cullum, who punctuates the play the way Harry Connick did the film.
In a smaller space, there would have been less temptation to try to win us over by overdoing winsomeness and charm - the point about the original is that Harry in particular is not all that likeable. It is worrying that, when in trouble, Alyson Hannigan in particular bubbles like she was presenting a kids tv show; at times, she and Perry together can be like grinning chipmunks, so determined to win us over that your teeth hurt.
She also creates her version of Sally by avoiding doing anything that Meg Ryan does, while also avoiding her own previous performances - there are times when she ends up being worryingly like Grace, as in Will and. You'll love me, because I'm scatty. She treats the faked orgasm scene as a challenge - it is like doing Lady Bracknell's ' A handbag!?!' and she does rise to the challenge quite admirably. I don't think she takes longer than Meg Ryan, but my guess is that she puts more beats in.
It wasn't a dull evening in the theatre - the jokes are good still and the supporting cast were mostly excellent. And some people were sufficiently besotted to like it more than we did. As it was, I snuck a couple of copies of the new edition of the book, signed to Alyson and Alexis, back stage and vanished into the night rather than hang around and risk having to be charming and lie.
There are times when you want to meet your heroines, and other times when you really don't.
Meanwhile, a piece of end of season spec.
All that his enemies have to do to keep Angel and Spike from being champions at the apocalypse - and remember that the provisional Ep 22 title 'Here come the champions' is a shout- out to the embarrassing Cordy, Gunn and Wes moment in Caritas after Angel fired them - is find a way of restoring their humanity without the shanshu. If they are human again, they are out of the fight, more or less - unless they just take on the difficult commitment that e.g. Xander and Giles and Wes and Gunn have had all these years, of doing the job that has to be done regardless of the fact you will get hurt and maimed and quite possibly killed.
It would be a great last episode twist to have them find this out the hard way - and leave them there. It would also mean that the survival of the Buffyverse franchise is not time-linked to the looks of two men who are supposed to be playing unaging immortals and one of whom - Marsters - is in his forties.
And I quite like the idea of an Angel movie in a few years time with David B playing an Angel who has spent a decade eating ice cream and drinking bourbon and is showing a few extra pounds. It would have a Grahame Greene edge to it...