Writing with the Body: Mikey and Nicky as an Actors’ Showcase

Gifted with crack timing and a caustic wit, Elaine May first came up as an improv comedian in the late fifties, forming the popular satirical tandem of Nichols and May with her college classmate Mike Nichols. By the time May had begun her career behind the camera in the early seventies, the duo had long since dissolved (with her former collaborator starting a filmmaking career of his own), but her flair for making the most of spontaneity had not. In the above excerpt taken from a supplement on our new edition of Mikey and Nicky—May’s brilliantly tetchy tale of an old friendship put under the gun one night in the City of Brotherly Love—critics Richard Brody and Carrie Rickey examine the remarkably live-wire work of Peter Falk, John Cassavetes, and their costars. While Brody highlights the dynamic verbal and physical interplay between Falk and Cassavetes, who had worked together before in Cassavetes’s Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence, Rickey homes in on the film’s colorful supporting players, in the process showing May’s deep appreciation for the craft of acting.

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