IN MY OPINION
Books Read in 2008
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|THEATRE OF THE ABSURD
29 April 2008
The review I wrote last week still makes me giggle. We had gone to see a show and it was one of those shows that make me scratch my head and think "what in God's name am I going to say about this show?" and makes Walt roll his eyes as we leave the threatre, whispering sotto voce, "I'm sure glad I'm not you."
As we walked out of the theatre, a woman I had interviewed before, with connections to this particular theatre, walked beside me and made comments about the performance. In my heart of hearts, I know she was feeding me ideas for a review because this performance was just so weird and surely she must have known that I was going to have a difficult time reviewing it.
I don't even know if I can describe it for you. It took place in something like a big empty warehouse...or, given the size of warehouses, maybe a small empty warehouse is more accurate. Seating for the audience was in chairs that ranged from the kind of chair you'd have in your living room to the kind of chair you'd have in your kitchen, to footstools, desk chairs, and anything else they were able to grab. The chairs were arranged in a huge semi-circle, two deep, and there were mats on the floor for people who couldn't find a chair to sit in (the ushers requested that the "younger people" sit on the floor, which we older people definitely appreciated!)
The room smelled of freshly popped popcorn and when I looked around the semi-circle in which we were seated I saw on the opposite side of the room an enormous bowl filled with popcorn. Now, when I say "enormous," don't think about the largest bowl you have in your house; think of the largest bowl you can find in a restaurant supply house. If you filled this bowl with paint to do your bedroom, you'd probably have lots left over at the end of the project.
While we were coming in, the performer was standing on a bench making hand gestures and twisting her body into different positions. As the lights came down, some women behind us started chanting, there were bell sounds and electronic sounds. After five minutes, the musical cacaphony stopped, the performer walked to a mic hanging overhead and looked like she might be talking into it, but so softly that she could not be heard (I don't think she was meant to be heard). It was 10 minutes before the performer spoke.
The performer describes her work as a sonorous and physical exploration of speech and the unspoken: a winding and poetic piece of physical theater that pulls patrons inside worlds of hesitation and restraint. It made no sense to me when I read it before the show, and, believe it or not, it makes much more sense after having seen the show.
The performance continued for some 30 minutes, during which time she started sentences and stopped them, the same sentence over and over again, she struck poses, she used the bench to stand on, to drag across the floor, to lean upon. There were "musicians" (for want of a better word) who played the kazoo, tapped drumsticks on the concrete floor, used slide whistles, and I don't know what all.
At one point she sat down in the audience and ate popcorn before getting up again.
I dunno. I'm just not sophisticated enough to "get" a show like this. I may not look forward to reviewing Annie or Music Man for the 10th time, but at least I know what is going on on stage. There's a plot and tuneful music.
It's seeing avant garde theatre that makes me question my qualifications to be a theatre critic.
So I came home to write a review of this very strange piece of theatre. I guess I had a sense of how reviewers felt trying to describe the Impressionsts when they first started painting and giving shows. They were so different from anything anyone had seen in the art world that they were roundly condemned.
I think about Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which practically caused a riot when it was first performed because people hate it so much. Now it's practically melodic, compared to some of the more recent modern works.
So I am not quick to put down any sort of new take on performance art. Who am I to say if this was something wonderfully innovative or a piece of crap? But I am paid to give an opinion and to let other people know what to expect when they come to see a show, and perhaps give them some idea of whether they are going to enjoy it or not.
I struggled a lot with this, incorporating some of the ideas the woman who walked out of the theatre had given me, along with the performer's description, and then I ended with this, which is what still makes me giggle:
I still like the way I wrote it. It says plainly that I didn't understand it at all, but that I acknowledged the talent it took to put it together and maybe some folks were intrigued enough by my verbal meandering through the minefield of avant garde theatre that they might have decided to check it out.
But somehow, hearing that my summer season will start off with yet
another production of Sound of Music doesn't sound quite so bad any more!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Hey look! I made The Today Show web page!
MILES TO NOWHERE: 30.5 miles
This is entry #2955