It’s the stuff of nightmare for both actors and non-actors – finding oneself onstage alone, with an audience staring expectantly at you. Solo performer plays are especially challenging in this highly collaborative art form.
Actor Craig Wallace is in just such a position as he portrays not only title character, jazz great Louis Armstrong, but also his manager and younger jazz star Miles Davis. “ Satchmo at the Waldorf” was written by Terry Teachout, based on his well received book, and produced in DC by Mosaic Theater Company. Wallace, well known and respected for playing roles from Shakespeare’s heroes to Dickens’s Scrooge, is on his own for 90 minutes.
It is to Wallace’s credit that he sustains interest while performing monologues, during which he switches from one character to another by nothing more than slipping on sunglasses or altering his accent and posture. There’s never any confusion about which character he is. As Armstrong, Wallace also completely changes clothes and operates a vintage reel-to-reel tape recorder, which caused some technical trouble on opening night. But this fine actor took it all in stride, and engaged the audience as only walking on a metaphorical tightrope can.
An actor being onstage by himself also is a very pure endeavor, harking back to storytellers of centuries past. Wallace is an able inheritor of this tradition.