Search


Advanced Search
Nenad Bach - Editor in Chief

Sponsored Ads
 »  Home  »  Culture And Arts  »  (E) On 'E.R.', a Pair of Survivors Who Throw Off Sparks
(E) On 'E.R.', a Pair of Survivors Who Throw Off Sparks
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  11/18/2001 | Culture And Arts | Unrated
(E) On 'E.R.', a Pair of Survivors Who Throw Off Sparks
The following appeared in the NY Times on Oct. 21. Note the reference to 
the war in Bosnia; it should be the war in Croatia and I intend and ask 
others to write a letter to have this error corrected in a story which is 
otherwise very favorable to Visnjic. 
John Kraljic 
 
 
October 21, 2001 
 
 
 
On 'E.R.', a Pair of Survivors Who Throw Off Sparks 
 
 
By STEVE VINEBERG 
 
 
OS ANGELES -- THE inspired notion of hooking up Abby Lockhart, the 
 
full-time nurse, on-again-off-again med student, with Luka Kovac, the 
 
Croatian physician, on "E.R." created perhaps the most fascinating 
 
relationship on prime-time TV: the meeting of two emotionally repressed 
 
survivors who seemed to have given up hope of any pleasure deeper than 
 
comfort or convenience. 
 
 
Abby, a recovering alcoholic who dropped out of medical school because 
 
of money quarrels with her bitter ex-husband, was revealed last season 
 
to be the daughter of a bipolar woman whose periodic forays back into 
 
her life keep Abby in a state of anxiety and instability. Luka lost his 
 
wife and both his children when their apartment was bombed during the 
 
Bosnian war. Luka and Abby's sexual chemistry - his brooding Balkan 
 
romanticism sparked the naughty teenager barely hidden under her 
 
professional solidity - and their shared besieged humor covered the 
 
inner turmoil they kept out of each other's view; sometimes their 
 
domestic scenes together were small symphonies of unarticulated 
 
miseries. It was a seasonlong masochist's glut of an affair, and in the 
 
hands of the remarkable Maura Tierney and Goran Visnjic it was - and 
 
continues to be, in the stormy aftermath of Abby and Luka's breakup this 
 
season - singularly compelling. 
 
 
"In the writers' minds it was a relationship out of need and not 
 
necessarily depth," Ms. Tierney said this summer on the set. "But it's 
 
so interesting that they wound up together, because they're both missing 
 
something - some part of their spirit is divided." Mr. Visnjic added, 
 
"Abby presumed that Luka was emotionally unavailable, and that's why she 
 
went for him." 
 
 
Certainly these two, both introduced during the 1999-2000 season, embody 
 
the willingness of "E.R." to explore the darker recesses of its 
 
characters. "All of the characters are approached through their 
 
emotional inadequacies," Ms. Tierney said. "That's how they're defined; 
 
that's how the characters navigate the stories." 
 
 
Mr. Visnjic and Ms. Tierney are the best reasons, among a highly 
 
skillful cast, to watch NBC's enduring melodrama, which has been around 
 
since 1994 and is as affecting as any medical series TV has produced. 
 
(As Kerry Weaver, the lesbian physician who directs the emergency room, 
 
Laura Innes shares top acting honors with them.) Ms. Tierney, who 
 
studied in New York at Circle in the Square in the mid-80's, slipped 
 
into the cast of "E.R." after five years on "News Radio" and appearances 
 
in several feature films, including Mike Nichols's "Primary Colors." Mr. 
 
Visnjic received classical training at Zagreb's Academy of Dramatic Arts 
 
(he played Hamlet over seven summers in a co- production of the Croatian 
 
National Theater and the Dubrovnik Summer Festival) and first gained the 
 
attention of Western audiences with a touching, fully inhabited 
 
supporting performance in the movie "Welcome to Sarajevo." "But I 
 
consider `E.R.' my biggest training ever," he said. "It's almost easier 
 
for me that it's in a foreign language, because it's so foreign in every 
 
way for me to be on a show like this." 
 
 
Watching his work, you can guess what he means. His style is both 
 
interior and exterior - a stylized approach tempered with psychological 
 
realism. As an actor, he seems constantly to be modifying his technique, 
 
determining how much to craft his emotional responses, in a way that 
 
parallels Kovac's method of acclimating himself to a culture so 
 
strikingly unlike his own. 
 
 
Kovac has maintained his wartime mentality, which makes him particularly 
 
qualified for the routine pile-up of trauma in the emergency room. But 
 
the moral imperative that leads him to make renegade decisions - like 
 
denying a kidney transplant to a young man who burned his own out with 
 
cocaine - can be unrelenting, and distasteful. So far Mr. Visnjic has 
 
been most extraordinary in a story arc involving a dying bishop (a 
 
memorable performance by James Cromwell) with whom he tangled over 
 
whether or not a drunk driver who had killed a man and his child had the 
 
right to absolution. At the climax of this story, the priest persuaded 
 
Luka to unearth his buried guilt over his inability to save his own 
 
family. Mr. Visnjic began to tell the story matter of factly, from a 
 
cautious distance, and then suddenly found himself up to his neck in it. 
 
In acting terms, he had wandered into a dangerous area that technique 
 
couldn't float him out of; only the depth of his emotional commitment to 
 
the character and the scene could. 
 
 
In her first season on "E.R.," Ms. Tierney wore her hair nearly 
 
shoulder-length and straggly; it wasn't flattering, but it complemented 
 
Abby's low self-image. (Since the show paired Abby and Luka, she's been 
 
permitted to look much prettier - a far better choice for both the 
 
actress and the character.) With the help of the writers, Ms. Tierney 
 
has turned Abby into a multi- layered character. Calm and reassuring 
 
with patients, she has a caught-out little-girl side that surfaces when 
 
she makes a bad medical judgment. With John Carter (Noah Wyle), the 
 
resident she sponsored at A.A. and then grew into a companionable, 
 
not-quite-defined relationship with, she's playful and flirtatious, but 
 
in a pre- adult way: they're like a couple of kids at their high school 
 
prom, even when they're out at a benefit dinner hosted by his patrician 
 
family. It's only with Maggie, her mother, that her irony grows caustic 
 
and she allows herself the outbursts of both fury and despair that, the 
 
rest of the time, she's so careful to guard against. "I find that people 
 
who have had difficult childhoods don't cry a lot," Ms. Tierney said. 
 
"It just becomes part of your life to bear it. You have to pull it 
 
together." Abby's best defense is her humor. Much of Ms. Tierney's 
 
performance is a complex comedy routine with a continuously varying 
 
tone. Her scrunched-up pudding face keeps commenting on what's going on 
 
as if she were providing subtitles to convey her thoughts. 
 
 
The graceless way in which the show has split up Abby and Luka is a 
 
disappointment. Luka's behavior in the break-up scene and even his 
 
dialogue seemed to belong to some other character - not because his 
 
conduct was ugly (after all, this is a man who, in one episode, beat a 
 
mugger to death) but because it was oddly crude for this refugee 
 
Heathcliff. You couldn't fault Mr. Visnjic's acting or Ms. Tierney's, 
 
though; you never can. It's hard to say how their characters will relate 
 
to each other now that they're on the outs, or even if they'll stay that 
 
way. The only expectation we can reasonably have is that, given the 
 
story lines, these two actors will continue to find new and surprising 
 
layers underneath the ones the show peels away. 
 
distributed by CROWN (Croatian World Net) - CroworldNet@aol.com 
 
  
How would you rate the quality of this article?

Verification:
Enter the security code shown below:
imgRegenerate Image


Add comment
Comments


Article Options
Croatian Constellation



Popular Articles
  1. (E) 100 Years Old Hotel Therapia reopens in Crikvenica
  2. Dr. Andrija Puharich: parapsychologist, medical researcher, and inventor
  3. Europe 2007: Zagreb the Continent's new star
  4. Violi Calvert: Nenad Bach in China to be interviewed by China Radio International
  5. Potres u Zagrebu - Earthquake in Zagreb, Croatia 28 listopad 2006 u 16:15 3.7 on a Richter
No popular articles found.