No, “Clockwork” wasn’t one of them.
A taped performance of McDowell’s one-man stage show, “Never Apologize” is a sparse production, relying on the actor to carry the weight of its two hours, supplemented on occasion by footage and photographs. McDowell got his start via Anderson’s revolutionary 1968 satire, “if ….,” and it birthed a professional relationship that carried through the director’s 1987 swan song, “The Whales of August.”
McDowell shares stories — some amusing, some downbeat — about the man he considers his mentor. Clearly, the actor is reverent and appreciative, but the work is a bore to the general viewer. Perhaps this sort of thing crackled live, but even the laughter of his audience seems slightly dimmed — more polite than genuine.
You might have to be a devotee of McDowell and/or Anderson to enjoy it, or a performer oneself. In that aspect, “Never Apologize” plays like a one-sided, overlong episode of “Inside the Actors Studio.”
If anyone benefits from the piece, it’s McDowell. To put it simply, the man has a refined, magnetic elegance that commands the stage. It’s just a shame the stories play as inside jokes. —Rod Lott