Review: “Live Big”, a minor miracle

by Sharon L. Kirkland

 And to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.
—Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Every man his speciality.
—Hamm, in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame

I’m indebted to my friend Ina for sending me the episode in advance of its UK broadcast date, really indebted, because the Paul/Rachel storyline makes for such brilliant and beautiful television, which served to remind me why I fell for DS9 in the first place, and in so doing remembered Benson. It also served to remind me why as an actor René is the one for me. Proust had his madeleines, I have Odo (I’m a poet, so blah, such fancies are allowed and to the good :)). I’m not sure how best to put this, but…. What René gives us in the episode is something other, different from and more than a master class. Some actors – this seems to be especially true of character actors who are called upon to recall every access to and foundation of their craft to deliver of performances that are remarkable, and founded in and worked out of a particular scrutiny of their own emotions and intelligence – they’re often extraordinary, but somehow static and unreal, “etched in” a portrait whose eyes might follow you round the room, fair dos, but your curiosity, or at least my curiosity and wonder at what they’re doing, soon wanes because I at least think I know something of how they got there.

Not so René, because when he has free rein (even in so short a time as they had for Paul and Rachel) I never cease to wonder at what he accomplishes. I’d never seen Jayne Brook before and I loved that her performance opposite René’s answered to its own logic. The fact that their characters were calling from and needful in logics that were the same but different is why the storyline was so open, so moving, and rang so brilliantly true. To have to answer for yourself, and do so often and without the foundation of “you” is very hard, and I wanted to give Jayne a hug for her performance. In the Paul/Rachel storyline, every register, every connection came to be and “reminded” me of what it is I love about this dear and lovely man’s abilities as actor. And we see as much without any conscious access to craft!!! (at least so far as the viewer can see). I’ve no doubt it’s there but it doesn’t matter how often I watch the episode, I can’t see it or get a fix on it and to me that’s wondrous and just what makes “Live Big” so much more than a minor miracle.