Saturday, April 22, 2006

I saw 3 pieces of theatre this week

1 At Bosten Theatre works I saw Rebecca Gilman's "The Sweetest Swing In Baseball", which some people I respect admire. I thought it was unsatisfactory-- a play of ideas with 2 dimensional characters in which the ideas were third rate. Every human has worth, smart people and not so smart people grow and love and work and feel pain-- drama doesn't need to be about smart. But a play of ideas where the ideas are dim and characters cardboard? What use is that? Plus the artist's "comeback" chicken pictures belonged on a refrigerator -- if she were 8 years old and her proud mother put them up with magnets.

2 At The Actor's Shakepeare Project I saw a nicely directed (Benjamin Evett) well acted production of "All's Well That Ends Well" that was also unsatisfactory. Helena and Bertram were -- IMHO--grossly miscast, so there was no romantic pull to the piece, no communal reconciliation to celebrate. The company's comments indicate that they think the play a failure and that Bertram is not just a cad but a dispicable one. I actually like "All's Well", and I've seen some good productions of it. It seems to me that Bertram has to be very spoiled but attractive; naive and redeemable so that we will want him to grow up and stop making bad choices. I especially liked the old Boston Shakespeare Co. Edwardian version-- Helena as a Shavian heroine-- 30some years ago. That production, like most of BSC's, was panned by the local critics; but after 3 decades of Shakespeare it's one of the ones I remember in detail, and with pleasure.

3) At Nora I saw a very well done local production of "The Man Who..." Peter Brooks' illustration/exploration of Oliver Sacks "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat". 80 minutes, 4 actors--Steve Barkhimer, Robert Bonotto, Owen Doyle, Jim Spencer-- playing at least 20 characters under Wesley Savick's sharp direction. NO RELATIONSHIPS-- but that's sort of the point, isn't it? We have relationships when our personal narratives intersect and we react to each other-- these men were each locked inside their own data fields, the patients by their brain damage, the doctors by their research protocols. There were moments of pity and fear, but only brief ones--- except for the pleasure of being able to admire the actors' skill at portraying the nearly unimaginable states of mis-perception, being there felt much like being at home alone reading Sack's book.

But who knows what people consider worth the time trouble and money to see? I just closed in a production of Robin "Talking To Terrorists". I admired the script, the director, the company, and my fellow actors; and was intensely proud to be acting in a beautiful and important production. The reviews ranged from respectful to enthusiastic-- and the audiences were very small. I felt semi-suicidal for about a week afterwards..... if people are not willing to engage complex and challenging material in the safe space of a theatre, what chance is there that we can attain the wisdom and will to find political solutions?


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