The Playgoer: Quote of the Day II

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Quote of the Day II

"Mr. Ball’s dialogue rings with acerbic commentary about our chronic self-absorption, American decadence and the emptiness of a consumerist culture. The problem is that Mr. Ball’s analyses themselves seem glib, prefabricated and marketed past the point of freshness. They clutter up the play like last season’s leftovers stuffed on sale racks at the Gap. As the play’s eloquently self-aware characters trot out the usual therapy-speak about their issues and the self-protective habit of 'avoiding emotional risk,' a running gag comparing Dwight’s world-weary effusions to verbal flatulence strikes a little too close to home."

-Charles Isherwood on Alan Ball's first post-American Beauty/Six Feet Under play. (At New York Theatre Workshop.)

I know we take Mr. Isherwood to task often for not supporting new writing (Sarah Ruhl aside). And I don't know anything about this particular play. But I do think he's onto something here (despite the jarring Gap reference) about what makes so many plays today annoying to me. Overly arch, hyper-articulate , over-educated "characters" simply stating what they feel, usually--one surmises--simply because that's what the playwright feels and thinks. (Richard Greenberg is probably the most talented of this school, but I've never warmed to his work.) I worry we're losing sight of the importance of the role of dramatic irony and distance, of structure and setting. Of creating a "world of the play", not just a convenient place for your voices to just vent.

Plus, I hated American Beauty and could never get into Six Feet Under. So I'm inclined to agree in this case.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Overly arch, hyper-articulate , over-educated "

Sounds like a description of Isherwood, too (not that "articulate" or "educated" are bad things for critics to be - but there's a kind of mean-spirited flaunting in his writing.)

Anonymous said...

Isherwood seems always to hate plays by TV writers, even if they were once playwrights. What's that about?

And by the way, Playgoer, where did your list of links disappear to? I relied on it to get to other blogs but didn't bookmark them! Please bring it back!

The Playgoer said...

Yes, sorry about the temporary disappearance of the Blogroll and other links. As I said, I'm reformatting with the new "Blogger Beta" and my technical incompetence is just slowing down an already confusing process.

But the good news is it seems the new format will make the links even easier to insert and display.

Soon, I promise!

malachy Walsh said...

...I do think he's onto something here (despite the jarring Gap reference) about what makes so many plays today annoying to me. Overly arch, hyper-articulate , over-educated "characters" simply stating what they feel...

Yup. And it also trains audiences to stop listening for it any other way. It's not good. Not good at all.

Aaron Riccio said...

I hope to get some coverage up of the Alan Ball play this Sunday when I see it; I love Six Feet Under & American Beauty, so if it sucks, I'll probably be its harshest critic... though Isherwood's already ripped into him. I do believe there's a SFU curse -- Mr. Marmalade tanked, After the Fall didn't do much better, and As I Lay Dying has been getting scorched...

From the front lines then, on Sunday!

June said...

Aaron, Lauren Ambrose and Awake and Sing! did pretty well.

Anonymous said...

so why has playgoer not mentioned isherwood's 'coast of utopia is boring' article... (and - overly arch, hyper-articulate, over-educated....) (they just can't stop talking about it, can they)

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/theater/04ishe.html?_r=1&oref=slogin