Monday, April 6, 2009

This is a blog post about some of them New Works

So... instead of talking about Jenny's plays, of which I saw The Psyche Project and 101 Ways, or talking about plays in which I had some sort of mangly hand in, including Funky Snowman and The Mariner, I have decided to talk about the other plays I saw!

What I have to say about The Nomadic Dream Project:

Having worked on another child-oriented theatre piece with minimal dialog (Funky Snowman), rather than finding The Nomadic Dream Project silly or distant in its appeal, I approached it with the same seriousness I would approach work on my own project. After all, from the title, I had presumed the Nomadic Dream Project had something to do with the ancient folklore of wandering inuit tribes. That'll teach me a thing or two about being presumptuous.

However, the Nomadic Dream Project struck me as being extremely adult in its sensibility... it isn't a play about children, after all, it's about three self-respecting specialists in their respective positions, and a society of anthropromorphic sheep that seem to have some sort of control over their dreams. Perhaps at times they act like children, but really, the play is about exploring that space in dreams, where we can become anything we want to become, so perhaps these were just adults remembering the potential of who they could be rather than what they were in day to day life. And of course, they take their chance to share their craft with someone else in a way that the other might not expect, suggesting creativity, innovation, and looking for new voices and ideas. Things we all need in our respective fields of speciality.

Needless to say, I was very impressed. The staging was brilliant, if not marred by the million other outdoor events taking place on campus adding unwanted sounds and distractions. Such is the cost, I suppose, of being able to utilize ingeniously the carillon of the UT Main Tower. In the future, I'd hope to see this play stage in a better lit and perhaps more peaceful local. Some other city park with some other clocktower? A difficult thing to locate.

Costumes were of course, perfect. The setting was iconic - I enjoyed the encore presentation of the cart from La Curandera which I had the pleasure of getting to do welding work on during my tenure in the prop shop, now in a half-way space which better fits its mystical figure. The balloons... the bingo cage... of course the costumes, which instantly make each character and their roles recognizable. Despite the ambiguousness inherent to dreaming and the non-concrete space the play is set in, there is so much clarity in this play that we are never once lost in the product of a script with only two lines, both numbers.

The play is obviously the product of countless hours of work, in which each character was explored to a fantastic extent, always such that you have something to look at in viewing each of them: I would have loved to see the play three times and follow each of the three main characters the whole way through. The process of discovery in this play is brilliant and apparent, perhaps discovery is the theme of this play? Needless to say, I enjoyed every bit of it.

What I have to say about Phoenix Unforgiven:

I don't feel comfortable talking about it. After all, even if I didn't talk about performances, of which a few were lackluster, and the staging, which was quite distractingly poorly concieved, or the costumes, which served their purpose adequately but really aren't anything to talk about, or some of the special effects, which I just found a bit distracting, we're left with the writing. I want to say that this is good writing marred by a lot of technical problems and acting difficulties, but I can't. At its core, I just don't feel like this play was really ready yet for the stage.

Perhaps it's because I had recently read a lot about the Dirty War and the many atrocious acts of the Argentine government in the late 70's and early 80's, and that I had bothered to read the program notes, but I might have been one of the only ones in the room to understand the context of the play at all. I realized partway through that the unfamiliar last names jumping out at me and the continual references to what was simply called "the war" throughout the play were completely jarring. I can't remember if they even explicitly said "Argentina" during the play. I am just rather sure that somebody in the audience had to have been very lost, wondering whether this play is set in post-nazi germany or what.

Needless to say, it didn't seem like any specific historical event had anything to do with the play itself. The play came across as this deluge of cascading plot twists stemming from the lies of this old man, but none of them really seemed to have a heavy baring on the action, until the protaganist, Amanda, decides to throw away her school's sanctity on revealing the truth. This is tragic and reminds me of somewhat of Oedipus... he's bound to uncover the truth and thus destroy the whole foundation of everything he's worked for. Is it for better or for worse?

I had no idea that was what the play might be getting at until I sat through an hour and a half of soap opera-esque plot twists, gimmicky attempts at going beyond the linear world of the play, and occasionally brilliant performances simply swamped by somewhat unbearable ones, extreneous lines and speeches, and things which were so implausible and unmotivated for a character to actually say that I heard light chuckles being choked by polite gasps in the front row.

This play has a long way to go.

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