Saturday, March 07, 2009

Frigid 2009: Son of Man

The creator of Son of Man, Anna Lidia Umansky, is currently wrapping up her studies in Dramatic Literature and Fine Art History at New York University, so it's not meant as an insult to say that she still has a lot to learn. In this case, it's that dramatic tension is created by the slow revelation of information. Instead, we get six quick introductions (and that's it for character development):

  • a people-watcher (played by Alton Alburo, but by the accent, a female character?)
  • a Pakistani girl (Milan Sundresan) forced into a violent marriage after her father's death
  • a lying husband (Jonathan Abetti) and an insistently truthful Russian (Seref Njemcevie)
  • an angry sculptor (Rikki Bahar) dealing with mother issues
  • a salesgirl (Allison Ruth) and an odd lady (Michelle Kuchuck) trying to barter away her goods
  • a silent, Rabbi-like man (Scott Goldfarb), showing his assistant (Luke Gilson) how to mop
Flickering lights and the clustering of actors on stage illustrates some sort of freak accident where they all die; the next scene, in which some actors are casually sleeping in body bags, makes it even more obvious. For good measure, a painting of Magritte's "Son of Man" hangs from the ceiling, illustrating that Goldfarb, now eating apples, is actually the gatekeeper of a train station limbo. This all makes about as much sense as you'd expect, and if it went somewhere, this compression would be great (especially in an age of stretched-out reveals, ala Lost).

Instead Umanksy replays the same scene three times, going a little bit further each time. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps this is what limbo is like. However, for some reason, in the second repetition, the characters have all switched parts--considering the lack of character to begin with, this only makes things even harder to understand (as does some of the mumbled acting). Exposition from Gibson's character reveals that to "move on," these strangers will need to resolve their differences--unsurprisingly, they don't. Exposition from this review reveals that for Umansky to "move on," she'll need to first find some way to actually create tension (arguing over coffee? and a stained Burberry shirt?) and develop character . . . you know, so that there are differences to actually resolve. After all, according to her own character-swapping scene, we're all already the same.

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