there’s no success like failure and failure’s no success at all

Matt Maher, one of the actors in Kristen Kosmas’ Hello Failure which opened Thursday night at P.s.122, sent out the following invitation to come see the show:

The play is called Hello Failure. It is sincerely offbeat, lovely, weird, poetic, dense, freeflowing–in it’s unassuming way, it’s like nothing I’ve ever done, and the director is in tip-top form. Some of you may hate it. Some of you may think that all plays, from now on, should be like this. Some may come just to have a drink with me afterwards. All these impulses are totally valid.

Now, if you read this blog with any regularity you know which of the aforementioned categories I fall into.  Have you ever just felt completely unable to accurately or capably describe the sheer, utter, captivating brilliance of  a work of art? I’m serious.

I see a LOT of theater. theatre. and there’s plenty of folks what gussies up their shows with videos and televisions and sound effects and computers, with a cool downtown attitude,  ironic and distant and above it all. Some people use all that stuff really well, some people try and use it to disguise the fact that they don’t have anything to say. And then there’s all those gimmicky wannabe sitcom writers or just plain bad. And the self-indulgent solo shows about some random bullshit. Or overly emotional, topical lifetime movie of the week stuff or the totally phony completely poseur-tastic posturings of the glib and self-satisfied.

And then there’s Kosmas. I will readily and avidly declare that she is one of the most important, if unheralded, playwrights of her generation. Certainly one of the most important playwrights currently making work in the downtown scene in NYC. Nobody, and I mean nobody, holds a candle to her writing. No gimmicks, no flash just sheer poetic brilliance. She rips narrativity to shreds and reconstructs it like you’re dreaming the whole thing into existence. She finds the pauses and mistakes and mysteries and joys and tragedies of the minutia of moments and holds them up to the light so they refract the truth  directly into our deepest, darkest places.

I don’t want to pigeonhole or narrow the lens through which Kosmas’ work is to be regarded, but she has a distinctly feminine voice. Not like flowers and rainbows or that crap, but a rhythm and observational quality that is profoundly feminine. Like Jeanette Winterson or Maria Irene Fornes.  If, for instance, Richard Maxwell could be said to have a distinctly masculine take on “theater of the profoundly mundane”, Kosmas could be considered a female counterpart.

Hello Failure isn’t topical or relevant in any straightforward way. And yet it is stunningly immediate. It speaks to the profound alienation of these times, to the yearning for connection, the feeling of uselesnesss and frustration, our inability to articulate our discontent or to truly communicate with each other. And yet it is darkly, achingly funny.

Ken Rus Schmoll has done a fantastic job of directing the show and the actors, without exception, turn in extraordinary performances. These are some of downtown’s best actors giving this very difficult show everything they’ve got. Every one of them has, at one point during the show, a small star turn that leaves you breathless.

It is not for everyone, I’ll admit. Some people are going to HATE it. Maybe some critics will hate it. Actually, now that I think about it, I know a LOT of people who are going to hate it. But fuck it, I’ve sat through enough po-mo self-referential self-congratulatory downtown theater circle jerk bullshit and when I finally get to drink in the real thing, dammit, I know what it is. You can hate if you want but you’re wrong. Fo’ shizzle.

At the afterparty on opening night I was talking to one of the audience members who said, “One day people are going to realize that Kristen is the Chekhov of our time.”


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