Results tagged “kenneth lonergan” from Drama Queen
I was supposed to review Theatre rEvolution's newest production, Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things, this week but unfortunately my space was cut. So in fairness to the kids--and they are kids, all theater students at or recent grads of Philly's University of the Arts--I'm posting yet another philosophical inquiry based on one of their shows. Oh, and if you're wondering, I really did like the production and hope to see Haley McCormick (she played Jenny, LaBute's idea of a nice, normal girl who, naturally, makes out with her boyfriend's best friend) all over Philly's stages next season.
Last time, Theatre rEv's superb production of Kenneth Lonergan's disaffected This Is Our Youth got me in a comparing way (apologies, but it seems the Inquirer has archived the reviews linked on that entry). This time, it's bitch-slapping LaBute and a playwright whose work bitch-slapped LaBute's at this year's Tony Awards, Yasmina Reza. And no, they are not opposing forces.
I've heard Reasons to Be Pretty and God of Carnage are departures for both playwrights, and amen to that, but for our purposes, I'm matching their older work, the LaBute with Reza's Art. Why? Well, it's pretty simple: I hated them both for the same reasons. I don't need to literally be told there's a debate about what makes art; I'd like to just go ahead and engage in it, thanks.
In the LaBute, this debate arises several times; in the Reza, well, it is the play. In both, it's really, really dull. And didactic. And self-conscious. And, as I believe I've mentioned before, kind of a wank.
I get that the great art debate is a metaphor for something larger, but theater is also a metaphor for that same something, and honestly, it would be a lot less boring and pretentious if playwrights would just knock out the middle man and get on with making art, instead of discussing it.
Are you with me or against me?
Here in Philly, in the past three months, two separate companies have produced Kenneth Lonergan's Bright Lights Big City-era drama This Is Our Youth. What I found most interesting about the productions was the difference in directorial perspective on the character Dennis Ziegler. Where the first director saw him as a threat (Revolution), the second saw him as a plain old loser (Simpatico), and I suspect the difference may lie in the fact that the first director is a man and the second a woman.
Maybe a young male director has more at stake in Dennis' self-mythologizing. If Dennis is completely full of crap and bluster, well then, what does that say about a director who identifies with him? Apply this question to Lonergan's constant reminders that the guy you are in 20 years will be a pale reflection of the guy you are today, and you've just provided the bellows that will fan Dennis' bonfire of the vanities into an inferno. A woman can see right through Dennis' bluff without any ill personal effects. However, I'm sure it's no coincidence that in the second production, the female character, Jessica, is far more sympathetic than in the first.
Here's today's review from the Philadelphia Inquirer coupled with my review of the earlier show.