Play Reading

The degree of boredom which I have attained today is staggering. So with that, I am going to spend a few moments trying to articulate my thoughts on some plays I’ve recently read in preparation for having to give said thoughts to a committee this weekend.

“CATFISH MOON”

This is a prime example of a show which is just fine, but has no earthly business being put on anywhere outside of the part of the country from which it came. It’s basically a story of three good ‘ol boys on the verge of mid-life crisis, with a nice little message about the power of friendship. It’s well written, if not a bit on the cliché side. The problem I have with it is that for anyone outside of the south, the characters will come across as a caricature. Not that they’re written badly, but they’re just so specific to the place from where they come. I honestly believe the author crafted them with care and love, but since they don’t resonate with someone like me (a crusty northerner), if I were to try and perform the piece, they’d fall into mockery. So I’ll never do it or go see it, because it deserves better.

“COYOTE ON A FENCE”

I could go on and on about the brilliance of this show. The writing is phenomenal, not only for the power of the theme, but for the subtly of the dialogue. Just magnificently written. What you’ve got is a story about a pair of death row inmates; one a highly educated “voice of the people” who publishes a newsletter to try and bring humanity back to the prisoners; the other a wild and uneducated white supremacist. That is, of course, if you’re only looking for surface. The genius is in the play is in the way it takes a set-up which would seem to require a commentary on the death penalty, and instead turns it into a commentary on upbringing and need. The kid deserves to die for his crime (I believe), which is unquestionably heinous. But he’s a likeable kid. And worse, he doesn’t see the darkness of his crime because it was committed with a pure intention. His childhood was horrific, yet the irony lies in the fact that the one person who gave him any form of love and stability, was also the person who instilled in him the hate. I really can’t do this show justice.

Unfortunately, I also can’t see this show flying particularly well with the crowd who would see it should the group who’s considering it choose to do it. I know you’re not supposed to underestimate your audience, but I recently had one of said audience tell me that my line, “call me butt love” from “Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” was his favorite thing that he’s seen on our stage, so I’d say I’m estimating our audience correctly.

“THE TRADING POST”

This is a sweet play, with a simple little story about how it’s never to late to love. In many ways it reminded me of “A Murder of Crows”, a show which I adored so much that I wasn’t even that upset to see it nearly mangled by another director recently. But therein lies the problem, I think. I liked “A Murder of Crows” so much, that I think “Trading Post” suffers in my hands, even if it may ultimately be a better play. They’re too similar in my head, and for me Crows will always come first. That being said, I can certainly see the group doing it, and in fact will probably encourage them to do so. I just don’t want to be the one to direct it. Or be in it.

“LIE, CHEAT & GENUFLECT”

Okay, I laughed so hard in reading this thing that I nearly ruptured a kidney. It’s a balls-out farce in the style of the Marx Brothers, that is so fast and so over-the-top, it makes the aforementioned Complete Works seem tame. That being said, it’s a three act play that is beyond too long. You’d kill an audience if you ever tried putting it on, to say nothing of the two main actors. Seriously, the only way the show CAN be done is at breakneck speed, and by the end of act two the audience will be all laughed out, leaving the third act to die a miserable death. Which is a shame, because while the show doesn’t necessarily bring anything new or original to the table, it cobbles together so many classic gags and zippy one-liners with such love and care, it’d be an absolute joy to do. It’s the kind of show I hope they do, even though I think they’re crazy to try. And if they do? I’ll be the first one in line at auditions.

“THE DEATH OF FRANK”

Truth be told, I don’t think the theater was *ever* considering this show. I grabbed it off the pile because the playwright was actually one of the actors who created the original “Laramie Project” and I wanted to see what he had to offer.

Eh.

It’s an interesting read. But I dunno, I fail to see the need/desire/demand to put it on. You’ve basically got four people, all with varying degrees narcissistic tendencies, and none of whom I’d care to ever meet. The show touches on a number of subjects (incest, questioning of one’s sexuality, inherent violence, the “women love bad boys” principle), but it doesn’t really comment on any of them in any meaningful way, let alone attempt to provide any answers. It’s people being fucked up. Umm… okay. And? The few times in the early stages where it looked like the author might make an attempt to bring depth to potentially stock characters, were washed aside in the later scenes when said characters turned into – surprise – stock characters! Or maybe it’s just me. I dunno. At the end of the day I didn’t care about any of them, and they swore too much and hurt each other too much for the average audience to tolerate without at least learning something.

And for the record, those are insanely simplistic views of those shows. I realize this. I could go on and on about something like “Coyote on a Fence”. I’m just not going to. Because I’m not bored anymore. I’m going home instead.

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