Peter Mayer and Bobby Miller got under one another's skin in the most tensile ways in New Jewish Theatre's The Value of Names. The play's plot concerns two lifelong friends who have been estranged since the plague years of the Hollywood blacklist. Now they are briefly, if awkwardly, reunited. Like the characters they portrayed, Mayer and Miller also are lifelong friends. But if that's all it took to summon great acting, lots of thespians would be great. Theater magic is never that simple. How do two actors settle into an illusory groove that allows them to almost breathe together? Yet when that groove is found, any semblance of "acting" stops. At The Value of Names, viewers felt like eavesdroppers listening to a painfully intimate conversation they had no right to hear. In a situation like this, the rules of conventional theater disappear. The characters are running the show — and it's a wary privilege to watch them.
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