Kathryn Hays and Don Hastings Work Magic on ATWT
In another generally well-crafted episode of As the World Turns, Wednesday's show featured several fine performances including Julie Pinson (Janet), Tom Degnan ("Riley"/Adam), and, yes folks, Marnie Schulenburg (Alison). However, it was two of ATWT's most beloved and revered veterans who taught a masters class in acting: Don Hastings and Kathryn Hays.
Hastings is not regularly recognized by the soaparatti, likely because his style is so laid back and naturalistic that it can generally be misconstrued as not being acting at all. In fact, I think Hastings' talent, like so many other daytime veterans, is taken for granted. On the contrary, it is the understated ease which Hastings brings to the role that can ground even the most outrageous of scenes, not the least of which occurred not too long ago when Hasting's Dr. Bob Hughes had to explain with a straight face how a microchip the size of an iPhone had been plucked out of Paul Ryan's brain.
In one of those lessons where we are reminded of the old adage that "less is more," Wednesday's installment of ATWT was a showcase of Hasting's considerable talents. Whether Bob was sharing a weekly lunch with his wife Kim (a nice little bit of history I thought was long forgotten), dressing down an intimidated Alison, or forgetting how to use his hospital beeper in front of "Riley," every second of Hasting's performance was utterly believable.
Hastings employed no physical tics or actorly tricks to emphasize that a sudden slip of the tongue or the unexpected lighthearted bewilderment over simple things can be a far more insidious indication that something is really wrong than any scenery chewing could convey. Even more remarkable is that Hastings is playing this developing story as something fresh and new for Bob, despite the fact that it is a virtual carbon copy of the one he played only a few years ago where the good doctor Hughes was eventually diagnosed as suffering from mini-strokes. That, friends, is true talent.
By contrast and in complement to screen partner Hastings, Hays turned in a performance today that veered from good natured bemusement at the antics of Brad (Austin Peck) convincing Janet that the meatballs she cooked for "Oakdale Now" were studio props to a professional but gracious toast at Metro. This is the gentle, nuturing Kim Hughes that viewers have come to know and love. This was not to last: the other Kim Hughes — the one that pops up only occasionally these days — hulked out in full righteous fury when Alison approached her with concerns about Bob's faculties.
The scenes that followed were thrilling: After having been told incorrectly by Bob that it was Alison who had given Riley too much medication, Kim turned into an ice cold gangster when she heard Alison's voice. With seething anger in her eyes, Kim turned around and asked, "What are you doing here?" before verbally flaying that poor child into a fish filet. From the moment Kim called Alison her trademark "kiddo" — which means "you f*****g bitch" in Kim Hughes' world, for those of of you who don't know — Hayes kept her voice at a steady but increasing intensity of white hot anger as she called Alison a liar and burned with indignation at what the young woman had insinuated about her husband. Kim's anger became so great that she even hurled invective at the banes of her existence, the Stewart women, before collapsing from a heart attack. Hays was riveting!
Does some of the story not make sense? Sure! The very fact that Bob has a pre-existing medical condition for which he supposedly is still on medication and from which the same symptoms have manifested themselves in the past should give Kim and even Bob pause. Nonetheless, even a recycled storyline can be given a lift when seasoned performers like Hastings and Hays commit their all, as they do every time they appear on screen. As the World Turns is lucky to have them and, as fans, so are we.