18 November 2006

The Sound of a Copy Machine

Just got back from The Mistakes Madeline Made at Yale Rep. And now I see why everyone loves Elizabeth Meriwether. I'm a little zonked out from the train - overrun with pre-partying Connecticans on their way into the city for a night of whatever it is people do - but as the show's closing tonight, I don't feel a responsibility to praise it especially eloquently to get you to see it. The set was great, Patch Darragh was great, Michael Chernus is fucking brilliant. And the play. Such fantastic writing. A balance between "new"-play whimsy and incredible skill. (There are some writers whose plays I love, but whose plays always seem to come apart at the ends. This was similar to that writing, but it never got frayed.) The writing was just wonderful, on the small scale of language crafting, and also in the big ways, overarching ideas and development. There were so many places a writer with less skill would have been beating us over the head, and in each case it was deftly navigated - the handi-wipes, for example, which could have been such a maudlin symbol, were so slowly and carefully integrated, from a throwaway item to an important device, without ever feeling devicey or forced.

And Michael Chernus. I've always loved him, but this was like free reign to just be brilliant. (Apologies for the lack of thoughtful writing or examples, here - if you don't know the play, this is probably nonsense. Again - pre-partying Connecticans. I'm almost done.) It wasn't a perfect production, but I left the theatre completely satisfied. I think Aubrey Dollar's performance (and the direction) emphasized the lighter aspects of the play as opposed to what I imagine of the New York production, with Laura Heisler in the role - when Laura comes on stage you almost know she's going to break, but Aubrey's the pretty, put-together girl-next-door, maybe a bit of a partyer, but she's still okay. In some ways that made her eventual immersion in grief more powerful - there was farther to fall - but it also meant that when she broke down, she wasn't as broken. (Someone with Aubrey's first half of the play and Laura's second would probably have been perfect - Laura's breakdowns are wrenching and astonishing.) It made the play, I think, a little less about loss and pain, and more about living.

It was surprisingly feel-good, but not in a sappy way - it's too willing to face grief and ugliness head-on for anything to come out maudlin. But along with that frankness, there was also, due largely to Michael Chernus and the brilliant writing of that character, an incredible amount of sweetness and heart. No one forced it to be either a love story or an exploration of grief or a zany office comedy - I could say something sappy now like 'well, life is all of those things, too,' but even that's too reductive. It was a play, and it didn't limit itself with outmoded rules. And it was really, really good.


David Cote said...

Dang. Now I'm kicking myself for missing this - was also supposed to catch the Sat mat. Loved it downtown at 45 Bleecker. And yes, Laura Heisler was amazing. How I wish she were playing, say, Rachel Corrie. Would improve that show by maybe 65%. MMM is a really canny play about the human-machine continuum. Would make an interesting double bill with The Thugs.

Adam said...

I love that play, although I missed this production, but man, I'm with you on Meriwether-- that girl has got the goods.