Tuesday, April 07, 2009

metaDRAMA: Recaps & "The Acknowledgment"

One of the things I love about reading Critic-O-Meter is that it's really easy for me to examine my own unconscious biases, let alone to see them. For instance, with Why Torture Is Wrong, I came across as F+, though I suspect that's pretty true in retrospect--good as the director's use of Kristine Nielsen's acting and David Korins's set is, I didn't think there was all that much to salvage. And yet, I threw in what I'll call an "acknowledgment," saying that those who liked David Mamet's November (my hatred for it put me in the minority) would feel at home with Christopher Durang's latest.

As far as I'm concerned, that's the right move to make. After all, I may not like something, but if there's potential merit in it for someone else, I'd like to be able to represent that. I'm going to have a slant on any review, sure, but I don't want to put blinders on a reader. It's refreshing, then, to see that even a critic who enjoyed the play made acknowledged a potential bias. Back Stage's Adam R. Perlman notes that "If Durang's absurdism--more South Park than Ionesco--hasn't previously been to your taste, this play isn't likely to convert you." Not only is that a great description of Durang's absurdism (Newsday's Linda Weiner also has a nice bit about Durang's "unwavering trust in the power of the truly silly"), but it clarifies the sort of humor Perlman is inclined toward.

In any case, I like Variety's David Rooney and his context-providing example (mainly because it agrees with my perspective): "In his best plays, Durang peels back the wacky exteriors to show the sorrowful depths beneath his characters, but no such surgery takes place here." Again, save for a few lame sight gags and sketchy characters, I don't deny that Durang is funny--only that his laughs are exceptional empty these days, more so considering that he's set himself up to tackle a big issue. (Ben Brantley references "graphic" events that occur on-stage . . . I'm not sure what he's referring to, or perhaps he's forgotten Blasted.) But this all fits with my perspective of a critic's job: acknowledge what the playwright is trying to do, and then describe whether or not s/he has succeeded in doing so. The trick, as they say, is also remembering to acknowledge your gut.

No comments: