Tuesday, February 06, 2007

PLAY: "Real Danger"

The problem plaguing Jeff Hollman's second play, Real Danger, is that it and the actors are striving so hard to be normal that the show winds up being anything but. The forced normality makes for an unbearably silent evening of backward foreshadowing. It's the absence of action in the show that makes it clear we are being set up for something; there's no other direction to go. The end result is a series of negative choices by everyone involved in this production, none of which is helped by the artificial climax--a climax which, I might add, takes the easiest of all possible endings and proudly affixes it to the top of the play, like a broken star atop a sagging Christmas tree.

That's not to say that all the tinsel and ornamentation goes awry, however, or that Hollman doesn't have some things going for Real Danger. There is a beautiful monologue about the differences between men and women, as exhibited by a tribe in the Amazon. Even the deadpan National Geographic delivery by Carol Monda can't stunt writing that lucid. There are also some great moments shared by the two men, Eric Chase and Ryan Duncan: when they begin to talk about soccer, it's as if they've finally managed to give up their game of quiet inaction. But none of this makes Real Danger any less strained: the straight ninety minute scene is just a bland dinner between a war journalist and her straight-laced beau and his ex-best-friend, a lawyer visiting from New York.

By the time we get to the end, we're exhausted by the repetition and the stillness achieved by the actors in this play. The story itself is interesting enough, but as a drama, it lacks suspense (because of the anti-foreshadowing) and winds up without enough material to get through conversation without endless repetition of the successful soccer anecdote. The real dangers are the ones we don't expect. So why does Real Danger make itself so predictable?

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