13 July 2007

Lucky For Us, I'm Always Right

As I'd hoped and expected, Lower Ninth, which I saw last night (part of the Summer Play Festival) was fantastic. Two guys stuck on a roof after Hurricane Katrina. Sounds awesome, right? But it's one of the good kind of plays, using Katrina and the stranding as a backdrop and starting point - this isn't about the Tragedy or the Injustice, or it's at least about them in very specific, personal terms. It's really about these two men and their relationship. It's also just plain brilliantly written. In my SPF preview I said something about Beau writing rather straight realism, but there's an energy in his language that really kicks things up. (As Mark commented, "I think that, though it has the trappings of realism, that some of his work has an existential, expressionistic quality." So true.)

[I've been thinking about the theatricality of language lately. Like, you can be theatrical by having an elevator full of rain on stage - which I love - but there's also something theatrical (as in, specific to theatre) about the power of language. Also, when do you see a 30-minute conversation in a movie?]

So what can you do with two guys on a roof? A lot, apparently, and it doesn't have to be boring, forced, or awkward. The conversations and scenes flow and meander but never aimlessly. I was pretty much riveted the whole time, distracted only by the fact that SPF takes place in the absolute coldest theatres in New York City. I remember being awed during The Pillowman that there was a 45-minute two-character scene, one straight conversation, that never dragged or stumbled. The scenes in Lower Ninth are shorter (I think the whole thing ran about 90 minutes), but it still takes a lot of skill to do what Beau did so well in this play. Skill and artistry - this is a funny and powerful play. (Credit's also due, of course, to director Daniel Goldstein and the fantastic cast.) I strongly recommend you get yourself a ticket (tonight at 6:30, Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30, Sunday at 2:30) before they sell out, and seriously, bring a sweater.


Malachy Walsh said...

As your post points out, the generalizaiton that realism sucks and two handers are boring and "elevator" plays are dull just simply doesn't stick.

Thank god.

Jaime said...

True, but I still think bad realism is worse than bad non-realism, and in general, realism has more work to do to make itself interesting to me than something that's already played with the rules in setting out.

Mark said...

I guess I'd split the difference between your two comments and say that it might be harder to do realism well on stage because we have so many great examples of it easily accessible to us, in our memories and at the video store. The bar is higher, maybe.

Malachy Walsh said...

Bad is bad.

Does it really artistically matter what style of bad it is?

It's bad.