The Playgoer: REVIEW: Goodness (Time Out)

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

REVIEW: Goodness (Time Out)

"Goodness" lead actor Gord Rand
(not me at "Goodness")
photo credit: Michael Cooper

My latest in Time Out is on "Goodness" an import from the Toronto company Volcano, by way of the Edinburgh Fringe, where they won some acclaim.

I definitely recommend reading my review in conjunction with the wildly different (i.e. positive!) notice from Honor Moore in the Times, which I must say is making me feel not a little defensive today!

I would say the truth may lie somewhere between our two extremes... but then again, we obviously have different tastes in political theatre. I mean, to call this "Brechtian"?

(I think we should all be more careful before using "Brechtian" as shorthand for just any bare-bones ensemble thetare that talks to the audience and acknowledges it's a play. "Title of Show," for instance, was not Brechtian, I'm sorry.)

I'd actually be very curious to hear more from others who've seen "Goodness"--perhaps up north or at Edinburgh if not here. Personally, I thought it amounted to far less "social significance" than it strove for. And I'm fully aware that the divorce subplot I briefly refer to in the review was supposed to connect thematically to genocide in that the hero thinks about the potential killer within himself. But that's it--he thinks about it. Such undramatic things happen sometimes when novelists write plays.

I also wish I had more space to comment all the singing in the show, since for others it's the main selling point. I feel that inserting some "world music" interludes into your show does not necessarily do the work of political commentary. Plus--nativist point, perhaps--but if the songs aren't in English, how does an english speaking audience even know what they're commenting on?* Just sounded like a lot of generic "nobility" on display..... So yes, it was pretty to listen to. But did it really do anything relevant? Especially since the world of the play on stage was hardly multicultural or even universal, but just plain white. (Except for one actress of color, whose younger self was played by a white actress. Color blind casting? or lame gesture?)

I should add, too, that I actually generally liked the cast of these visiting Canadian stage actors. Interesting types, good voices, physically graceful. They just were put in foolish situations and forced to say a lot of overwrought drama.

*Yes, there are some translated lyrics in the program...but who reads the program! Plus, they're not so special. "Your aunt is having a work party. It's time to start digging???" ... I can't tell if that's "inspiring" or some anitquated schoolyard taunt.


Aaron Riccio said...

See, this is why I'm saying that we need more open forums and discussion areas for theater; or some sort of aggregate opinion counter (like Metacritic/Rotten Tomatoes) for theater. The defensive reaction you're having for "Goodness" is the same that I had for "Dying City," and just talking about it amongst bloggers (or even Blog-Nighters) doesn't always get at the wild variances of opinions out there. One of the things I love about working on New Theater Corps is that we'll publish as many reviews as we can for a show; the more voices (ala "The Wisdom of Crowds"), the better. (It's also why I love your site: you get those voices talking.)

Anonymous said... used to round up excerpts and links to reviews from the dailies and internet reviews of Broadway and major Off-Broadway shows, but I'm not sure they still do that, considering that they don't even really "review" shows anymore, simply have fans vlogging at you. does a similar thing, but it's less well organized and you have to sift through a lot of news items and other stuff. A Rotten Tomatoes for New York theater would be excellent. And who knows? A possibly profitable enterprise for whoever started it.

Anonymous said...

i didn't care for "goodness" either, (or for that matter, goodness in general), but i have to say, while i especially agree on your take re: the weak (if not spurious) linkage between the pain of divorce and the pain of genocide (WTF?!?!), that your review was maybe a tiny bit harsh, and i can not help but wonder, given your review of dying city, if you would have given it a more generous reading if you had known the playwright personally...

that sounds snarky. i apologize. perhaps i just don't understand the blogger raves for dying city and wonder if friendship (rather than "payola") might be a distortionary influence (albeit an understandable one).

a couple of caveats/clarifications: 1) i very much wanted to like dying city. while i don't know mr. shinn personally, i've been consistently impressed by his passion, insight, and articulateness; that his play was soooo, well, let's just leave it at "disappointing" was in itself quite disappointing.
2) i saw a very early preview; perhaps the production tightened up greatly in the subsequent weeks.
3) i don't mean any disrespect, as i am a fan of your reviews. i only wonder if it is possible, within a small theater and blogger world, for there to be a space for any form of dissent/variance of opinion. i find it a bit odd that the raves for this show seem to be so unanimous. (or perhaps i've lapsed into premature senility and become, inadvertently, the ideal LCT subscriber.)