Friday, February 02, 2007

PLAY: "The Silent Concerto"

This is not a silent concerto; that would require the characters both to shut up for a moment, and to be subtle. In this rough production of Alejandro Morales' The Silent Concerto, everything is plainly spoken and then subjected to a free-form rendition of interpretive theater (at one point, dance as well). From Beckett to Lorca, director Scott Ebersold seems to have drawn from as many visual playwrights as possible in order to imbue Morales' tepid script with some life, but he only emphasizes the faults in the show.

The three "movements" of this play don't move, they repeat, just like our protagonist Naldo's life as a playwright, a man who is stuck in Scene 1. The show uses a circular theme of repeated betrayal and distance to emphasize Naldo's inability to complete anything, and his life becomes a series of experiments that go nowhere. No matter how many times the characters play with stage lamps, perform musical numbers, or indulge in drinking games, the fact remains that nothing is actually happening.

Ebersold's diverse staging (on an deliberately plain set) only emphasizes this: the brief excerpts from other plays only more securely plummet us back into the actual one. Also, because many are fantasy, or melodrama on par with the worst of Noel Coward, we don't see any growth in the characters...though this might be the actors' faults too. Not for a moment do I believe that Naldo (Drew Hirshfield) is attracted to his roommate, Mallory (Susan Louise O'Connor), or his former lover, Benny (Julian Stetkevych). Nor does it help Hirshfield that Stetkevych comes off even worse. Benny may be a hedonistic asshole with a drinking problem, but Stetkevych plays him smug, too: invulnerable, inaccessible, and impotent. It's as if both actors are covering their lack of experience with affectations; they're both comic caricatures. Good for a farce, maybe, but for a meta-drama about stunted creativity and blocked passion, it's a flop.

It also makes things tremendously difficult for Susan Louise O'Connor, who, after struggling for a bit, ultimately winds up going a little off the deep end, too. It's not her fault: she's caught in a love triangle that links her to two emotional amputees, but one wishes that she could at least use her experience for manic characters to raise the bar a little. Her comic lines do, for a moment ("She wasn't picky, a penis bookended by legs"), but she's the "other" woman in this play, and even when she pulls a gun, nothing changes, she gets no reaction.

The worst blow of The Silent Concerto is that it's over two hours long, and that it takes two whole acts for the play to begin. It almost doesn't matter that the show makes even less sense when it does, we've long since lost interest in the plot, and could care less about the characters. As an exercise in masochism--watching what could consistently turn into something good persistently remain bad--The Silent Concerto isn't bad. As a play, it needs to go back to Scene 1.

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