Thursday, February 11, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. I hate the first ten minutes of pretty much every play I see.

This changes in retrospect, as the play's world envelopes me, as I give myself over to the story. But I gotta get through the first few minutes.

Part of this comes from the strangeness of it. What am I watching? When a play begins, I have to wade through this new reality and get used to how the characters behave, how they speak, and come to terms with the fact that this is not a literal representation of anything. Even the kitchen sinkiest of dramas is still only an imitation. (Yes, I know about suspension of disbelief and mimesis, eggsetera, eggsetera. We accept this as common knowledge in discussions of why we tell stories or see live theater. Doesn't make it any less peculiar that we engage in this activity.)

This theatrical Uncanny Valley is still there when I see movies, but in a considerably diminished capacity. First, the story (usually) takes place in two dimensions - so my sensors are ready to see this as a removed or unreal situation. Second, any pretense towards literal representation is eased by the movie's ability use the real world. If a film calls for a park, they shoot in a park. They don't build a park that only kind of looks like one and then shoot in it.

**There are plenty of films that override this rule, of course. Depending on the type of story telling used (the writing, the style of direction, ect.) they may very well build a park or shoot on a sound stage. Part of the appeal of cinema is its capacity to make the unreal even more realistic. As movie sets and CGI become more advanced, the the divide between a presented reality and our potential to go along with it is reduced.

But when I sit down to see a play, nothing about the situation is real. No matter how the production attempts to create a realistic environment, it's not. The actors are saying words they've uttered night in and night out - yet they are pretending to make it up right there on the spot. (Which, by the way, is also bizarre. There is no other art form in which we expect this behavior. Imagine going to see a symphony and having the musicians pretend they are making it up as they go.) We are in the room with these people. I can't just sit back and let autopilot to take over, I have to pay attention to this three dimensional thing and damn if those first ten minutes don't make me sick.

Imagine going by yourself to a party where you don't know anybody. The first few minutes are going to be kind of agonizing right? That's what it feels like.

It's nobody's fault. I think this sensation is far more common than not, even with experienced theater goers/lovers. And perhaps hate is too strong a word.

3. I saw American Buffalo last night. The performances overall were strong, the set was great. My problem might be with Mamet.

In a most Mamet I have seen, there is an emerging patter. No one listens to what is said, and every line comes out with Tommy Gun Ratatatic speed. As I left the theater, I read the notes posted on the lobby wall - the gist being that in American Buffalo, poker is the game of life and the characters use Art of War mind-game tactics to get what they want.

Unfortunately, all of that was lost on me. How can I be expected to catch the stakes of a situation if none of the fallout ever lands on stage? If things start out at a rolling boil, you really can't get much boil-er. No one has to have some kind of Terms of Endearment emotional expulsion, but the total effect of yelling at the same level, rapid fire backing and forthing and not even a second to reckon what is happening left me cold.

3. Favorite word this week:

fu·ri·ous (fyr-s)
1. Full of or characterized by extreme anger; raging.
2. Suggestive of extreme anger in action or appearance; fierce. See Synonyms at angry.
3. Full of activity; energetic or rapid: the furious pace of the trading floor.

[Middle English, from Old French furieus, from Latin furisus, from furia, fury; see fury.]

furi·ous·ly adv.

4. Least Favorite Word:


1 comment:

joe g said...

"My problem might be with Mamet."

I am right there with you.

allis: klar, kommissar?

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