Sunday, November 15, 2009

A side of Penang

I recently reviewed Penang. I didn't care for the script.
Martin Denton reviewed it and seemed to like it a lot.

I was listening to an interview with the playwright on Broadway Bullet, and he had some interesting things to say- he himself has been in combat, and he said that he hates the war movie trope where the men turn on each other and end up causing each other's destruction, and so wrote Penang to counteract that, to show how men in war come to love and support each other- as evidenced by a man throwing himself on a grenade to protect the rest of his troop.

...but that's not the play he wrote. Penang mainly takes place out of war. Everyone who dies in the play dies through accident, and not while in combat. The two leads meet and come to be close comrades while on R&R (in the titular country)- they certainly rail against war, and lose their faith in god, and comfort each other, but they never actually serve together.

I'd like to see the play he thought he was writing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Going for the Juggler

In one of American Theater Wing's SCDF Masters of the Stage podcasts, featuring the late Robert Whitehead and Brian Clark, one of them says:

Someone once said, I wish I remember who, that The Playwright’s spiritual ancestor is not a poet, but a juggler. And I think that’s right.

That's an amazing statement, and so true. My job as a playwright is, first and foremost, to entertain the audience, not to be poetic or philosophical. If I can be poetic and philosophical along the way, so much the better, but the audience is paying to be entertained, to see a good story.

Just saw Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In The Red and Brown Water at The Public last week. It was immensely entertaining because of the direction (Tina Landau) and performers, so much so that it nearly covered up for a strangely empty story (I've since discovered that it was based on African Yoruban Mythology, which accounts for some of the weird poetics of the script). The whole thing plays like a vivid dream that seems really important until you wake up. It's evocative, but not of very much.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leading Ladies

Just watched the latest American Theatre Wing's Working In The Theatre (which I get on my ipod- they alternate between the new episodes and ones from years past- they're often amazing). This one was Leading Ladies and featured Alice Ripley, Bebe Neuwirth, Beth Leavel and Laura Benanti. It's quite enjoyable.

One thing Bebe was saying was that, as a female performer who is both funny and sexy, she almost never plays a lead romantic interest. I've been trying to think of roles where that is not the case (Beth Level points out in the episode that she herself, just stepped into Mamma Mia!, has a rare one, with three men competing for her attentions).
I came up with:
* Sweeney Todd. Maybe not the best example, and maybe sexy is not the point- and it's really only because of the perspective flip of the story: the ingenues are the B-story there.
* Born Yesterday. Not a musical, of course, but that sort of screwball comedy does lend itself to wise-cracking dames in the lead.
* The Sisters Rosensweig. Also not a musical, but was Wendy Wasserstein's plan to consciously write an adult funny woman and a man who falls in love with her at first sight.
* Mame. Although her type would more likely be cast as Vera.

It's pretty clear Bebe has a point. Any other suggestions?