Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blog Defibrillator — “Blasted” and why theatre makes me cranky:

The atmosphere of playwrights offering frank commentary feels like 2003, during the Bush Administration — there is a whole lot wrong, but we’re too afraid to offer our version of the truth. I wish I could publish half the conversations I had last week with playwrights and actors and directors — frustration and confusion and disillusion as toothless irrelevant small-minded productions pass quietly in front of audiences, much better television shows flickering in the back of their minds.

Not every play should be as aggressive as “Blasted”, that amazing play with an amazing production currently playing at Soho Rep. But we can do better. “Blasted” is perhaps the best example of why we go to theatre — and it is not to *enjoy* ourselves. This is a tradition that started with thousands of Greeks watching Oedipus gouge his eyes out. And the Greeks were like, “Now I’ve learned something about my attraction to my mother.” They were surely shocked, and they may have been outraged, but they were definitely stirred, definitely unable to go back to they way they thought previously, and that’s what theatre is for.

For me, “Blasted” felt like the end of theatre, the end of the conversation that started with The Greeks. It unfolds like a regional theatre play gone to hell, a Fuck You to anyone who would ever want to sit through another Ayckbourn comedy or measured play about Iraq (take your pick; there are at least a dozen playing right now to snoozing audiences comparing the the on-stage drama to the New York Times headlines or that conversation they had with an ACTUAL veteran, i.e. a frustrating maddening 2 hours of wasted time.) I’m used to walking out of a theatre and having that annoying 15 minute “checklist” conversation with my date, then immediately forgetting what I saw. I walked out of “Blasted” nearly a month ago with a violent cloud above my head, unable to speak to anyone, and am still visited by its imagery — Marin Ireland’s terrifying seizures, the loving blowjob ending in a beating, the wild human eyes of Louis Cancelmi’s soldier, Reed Birney violently cradling the soldier like it was the last physical thing on earth, the last line (”Thank you”).

That the play has been sold out for nearly its whole run and been extended twice is a big Middle Finger to everyone who shies away from producing aggressive work that provokes an audience. The old adage of “our subscribers won’t like it” has been rendered false. We always knew it wasn’t true. From here on out I’m lumping people who profess this opinion with the people who said Obama couldn’t be president — the fear of success overwhelming the possibility of change. You know you’re wrong. Have courage. Do the plays you want. The audience will love you for it.

12:53 PM