just asking. [updated!]
so i’ve got a lot of e-mails to go through and i will catch up on posting soon. but i have a quick question – how come the Times hasn’t reviewed, nor even listed, The Foundry’s production of Aaron Landsman’s Open House? Is it not open for review yet? I mean, it is timely, relevant and interesting. More relevant to Brooklyn – and the other five boroughs than, say, Capt. Jean Luc Picard as Macbeth at BAM (which has been at the top of the Times online theater section for three days.)
okay so the show did get in the Times, read Isherwood’s review here.
I have to say though, that it is frustrating that the very things he criticizes are many of the same things I really liked.
But the play’s disjointed structure is frustrating. A series of brief, oblique scenes are interspersed with confessions addressed to the audience …
To me, that doesn’t feel frustrating, it feels natural and real. Life is often a series of disjointed, brief, oblique scenes. Also that is the way memory works – flashes of moments that may be either significant or insignificant but accumulate into meaning. Or small moments that seem incidental but are actually crucial turning points.
And he says
And while we always know where Rick and Jane are living, we are not always sure what they are talking about. The dialogue is peppered with references to various friends, political and social groups, and job problems that are neither developed nor clarified.
Why do you always need to know what they’re talking about? The point isn’t to know what they’re talking about exactly, but to relate to the experience, to create an almost “overheard” dynamic that let’s us access their lives in ways that leave room for us to imagine ourselves in those lives. And for many people, its not that far of a stretch.
Ambivalence about their relationship and a shared sense of disappointment hover obscurely, but as Rick and Jane move with exhausting regularity around the city and its environs, the play itself retains a static, unfocused quality.
How about instead of saying a “static, unfocused quality” saying that it reveals the grinding, dehumanizing and demoralizing problem of trying to live a decent, middle class life in NYC where you are constantly trying just to keep your head above water, to enjoy simple things like meals with friends and the occasional night out. Maybe you’re struggling with how a middle class couple could possibly afford to have a kid, no matter how much they want one. Maybe the “static, unfocused quality” is an existential statement about what it feels like to live in the city where even the most basic parts of the American Dream seem completely out of reach to many people.
And he also says this:
Insubstantial on its own terms, Mr. Landsman’s play naturally acquires some appeal from being presented in an informal, intimate atmosphere.
The play wasn’t written to happen in a theater. It exists “on its own terms” as a site-specific piece, written “to scale”. Much of what happens in the home is “insubstantial” -it becomes substantial by being re-contextualized and broken apart, re-examined in a new light or more closely.
And finally – did it ever occur to Mr. Isherwood that the “minor glitches” might have been intentional? I’m not saying that they are, but I did not attend the same performance as he did and we had the same “glitches.” I don’t wanna spoil anything but the “blackout” actually seemed pretty obviously on-purpose and I’m pretty sure the phone ringing was on purpose as well. Isherwood somewhat snidely says:
Before the performance began, [the host] took pleasure in her assigned task of reminding us to turn off our cellphones. But midway through the play, the phone in the apartment began to trill, to her obvious horror. Oops. Stage managing is not as easy as it looks.
Yeah, I guess figuring out what’s real and what’s staged isn’t quite as easy as it looks either.
I haven’t really talked to too many people about the show. I actually emailed a friend of mine who saw it. I said I liked the first half better, she said she liked the second half better. I’m sure there are many different opinions about it – but I encourage you to go see it and decide for yourself.
Also – I’m not one of those bloggers that wants to get in a pissing match with The Times, but I really think Isherwood missed the point on this one. I think Zinoman or LaRocco or any of the younger, hipper writers would have had more insight and more apt criticism of this show