nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
November 27, 2010
Development is very tough to accomplish when a play is only an hour long. And when your play is a biography of a titanic, larger-than-life figure like Peter Sellers, development is crucial.
In fact, as I hopped on the train at 9:30 p.m. (the show started at 8:35, so it's not even an hour long), I realized that I still knew just as little about Sellers's life as I did before I saw Carl Caulfield's play Being Sellers.
Peter Sellers, of course, is best known for his performances as Dr. Strangelove and Inspector Clouseau. He was also in Lolita and did a radio show before he became famous. In Being Sellers, Pete is on his death bed, entering purgatory, and recounting his life, the good and the bad, before dying. Caulfield simultaneously gives actor David Boyle a lot and very little to work with and the actor manages to create a tremendously layered performance in the title role.
What Caulfield doesn't provide are answers, reasons, or insight. Sellers was a legendarily difficult, egomaniacal person, and Caulfield, skimming the surface of everything, doesn't provide explanation. This leaves Boyle, a very physical actor, and the director Simon Green, to figure it out. Ultimately, it all amounts to mommy issues, and that doesn't explain much of anything.
Boyle is quite moving as he navigates a script dense with dialogue but light on motivation. He almost looks like Sellers, and his impressions of Clouseau, Strangelove, and others are fairly strong. He manages to infuse the material with an impressive amount of pathos, far more than it deserves.
When I got home and looked up Peter Sellers, I realized that I learned more about his life from his Wikipedia page. Google him. You'll save train fare.