rant

Anger

I am sick to death of watching actors move furniture. I saw a thoroughly terrific play, beautifully written, beautifully directed, well acted, well designed, and between the many scenes, in half-light I watched the actors behave like stagehands. How in hell am I supposed to suspend my disbelief when the characters I’m meant to believe in suddenly start shoving sofas and lifting tables and unfurling rugs? They’re not playing moving men. I’m not at a high school production or watching GLEE (which I’ve never seen, so that reference may be blowing smoke), I’m in a real theater with some union actors, a production otherwise to be proud of, and I’m watching effing actors moving effing furniture. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THEATRICAL MAGIC? And while I am at it, I am sick to death of being lectured from the stage. If I want to attend a lecture, I’ll go to a university or civic club or museum. WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO THEATER? Are we so desperate for audience that we eschew the single thing that makes us unique? The play I saw filled every criterion of that most elusive of products, “good theater.” Not only did the script encompass objective/obstacle/transformation-of-the-protagonist’s-relationship-with-his-world, but the acting and direction were heightened and theatrical (and I’m not talking Joan-Crawford-over-the-top, I’m talking teeth-in-the-text, body-flinging, balls-to-the-wall fearlessness). And I yawned my way through countless pointless scene changes performed by the actors. Not performed – had they been performed, had all of this movement of stuff echoed the couple of times someone onstage-in-a-scene moved furniture or props in a way believable to character and situation, I might not be ranting. Like director Laura Kepley’s Cleveland Play House productions of MY NAME IS ASHER LEV (Aaron Posner from the novel by Chaim Potok) and VENUS IN FUR (David Ives), in which I understood that furniture had been moved but I honestly never saw it happen, so well integrated was it to the action. Not so for the play I saw recently. That night, scenes ended – such well-crafted scenes, the turns were both inevitable and surprising – lights out, half-lights up, and the same actors I’d just believed within their characterizations now energetically pushed, shoved, unfurled… HERE’S THE LARGER QUESTION. With more and more people on earth, more and more well-trained actors and technicians, why are we making do with fewer?

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