I Know Nothing About Good Theater

I Know Nothing About Good Theater

This, from the Chicago Reader:

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HAMLET Though this production inaugurates a space for “artists working outside the traditional methodology of the text-based theater,” director Blake Montgomery’s elegant, clean-lined Hamlet is radical only in that it returns the play to its roots, stripping away centuries of convention and received wisdom. There is one departure from the text, however: the final scene is played first. This produces a kaleidoscope effect–one little twist, and all the pieces fall into a new pattern. A first-rate cast of eight, led by the extraordinary Christopher Johnson as Hamlet, performs on a bare stage in modern dress with only a change of coat or glasses to indicate a new character; between their scenes, the performers watch the action from either end of a runway-style stage. Hamlet may let ego interfere with duty, but this production never does; it keeps perfect faith with the ghost of Shakespeare. And of Joe Papp: all performances are free. Through 11/19: Fri-Sat 8 PM. Building Stage, 1044 W. Kinzie, 312-491-1369. –Kelly Kleiman

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Yeah, that’s the review of the show I was just complaining about in the previous post. We are listed as one of this week’s Critics’ Choices. On top of that, last night I saw a production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, who until last night was one of my least favorite playwrights. Now I have to go back and re-read all the stuff I said I hated, because I didn’t realize just how funny the guy really was. Everyone always plays his characters as these monstrous founts of melodrama, when really they are normal people with normal problems, who, like characters in plays by Chekov, use humor to cover up their unhappiness.

I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Posted in Acting
1 Comment

One response to “I Know Nothing About Good Theater”

  1. Shane says:

    Congrats on the good review, despite your reservations. We all already knew that you don’t know what you’re talking about : P

    One of the best things about theater is its subjectivity. “I may not know much about art, but I know what I like.” And what I like tends to be different from what other people like. How often have you been in a play that you thought was good that a critic disliked? This is no different. I for one am looking forward to seeing the show if I can.

    As for ol’ Tennessee, I’ve been thinking about him recently as well. I think there’s a reason why “Glass Menagerie” is his most produced work: it’s the one with an action at the heart of the drama, rather than a revelation. “Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” have both action AND revelation, which places them high in his canon. But most of his work relies on the revealing of a secret as a dramatic event, which is a singularly melodramatic conceit, and that is why it is so easy to fall into that trap when producing his plays. It’s not like Chekov is easy to do, either! They both write in a style that is a product of their time, but they attempt to rise above those stylistic restraints by peopling their plays with fully developed characters. However, it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of talent, and a little luck to play fully developed characters onstage, and if the production isn’t up to that challenge, then the plays seem like simple melodrama. That’s my take on it, anyway.

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