The Playgoer: "Close Up Space"... or just Myopia?

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

"Close Up Space"... or just Myopia?

Something about MTC's new debut Close Up Space has prompted some incisive commentary from critics on the state of new plays. While I haven't seen this particular show, I certainly find myself nodding with recognition at these notices.

Cote, Time Out:

Close Up Space is the sort of self-consciously zany dramedy in which characters are whipped into a frenzy of quirk that frees them and their actions from any burden of plausibility.
Feingold, Village Voice:
I'm sad, but not from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The fall season ended with Manhattan Theatre Club's opening Molly Smith Metzler's Close Up Space (City Center Stage I), a work neatly encapsulating everything new plays do that has been making me sad for months. I bear Metzler no ill will. As with too many other recent plays, hers has some distinct virtues, but its faults outnumber them so heavily as to make theatergoing burdensome: Instead of engaging creatively with the event onstage, you expend all your energy looking for little things within it to like in compensation for its generally dismaying nature.

I can't blame Metzler for repeating the pattern. Like all playwrights, she wants to get produced. Naturally, she has turned out the sort of play our would-be serious theaters increasingly tend to produce. They, too, strive to imitate previous successes; everybody's following the Ruhls. [Heh] The result, in Close Up Space, is a viscous mixture of sitcom and after-school special. It opens with patent absurdity, in an ostensibly naturalistic context, and ends in a glop of would-be tragic ironies. Reality, heightened or everyday, is the one thing it virtually never touches.
Full StageGrade roundup here, where this seems to be the critical consensus--including the two most prominent female reviewers, Vincentelli and Weiner, in case you suspect mere male anti-whimsy bias.



John Branch said...

On reading the end of your first sentence, "...the state of new plays," my immediate thought was: don't blame the playwrights. Partly it's for the reason that I see Feingold gives: many (not a qualification he uses) playwrights are writing what they know is being produced. And another reason not to blame the playwrights is a Rumsfeldian conundrum: we know there are lots of people writing plays out there; unless we work as a play reader for a producing company, we don't know what most of those plays are like, because they're not being chosen for production.

cgeye said...

oh, *SNAP*: