Archive for the ‘Stuart Hoffman’ Category

Say you Love Satan

September 30th, 2010 No comments

Went to see this at convergence. It was a good time.  Funny play, hits the notes that a funny play should hit.  Not much in the depth department.  Quick story line: guy meets guy in a laundry mat; guy and guy become sexually involved; guy finds out that other guy is Satan (Jack–Lukas Roberts); Satan wants to steal other guy’s body (and ‘hit the gym’) but can only do so by getting the body from a willing partner and by killing an infant (‘they’re like olive oil in Italian cooking: you use them in everything’).

The play has a very droll sense of humor and some very funny lines (per the above). It shoves two stories together to allow for contrasting visions of meaning: the story as described above and the story line in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.  I’m a great fan of Crime and Punishment as well as Notes from Underground; but have never read Karamazov, so I don’t know how well the contrast of content works.  I can say from a viewer’s perspective, it does not work as effectively as it probably should, as I was unable to clearly see the parallels.

According to Wikipedia (the source for everything, right?), Karamazov is a “spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason” and I can certainly see elements of that in Satan.  Obviously, if you’re not a believer in anything and find that you suddenly are dating the chief antagonist in one of the oldest stories in Christendom, then you need to re-think some things.  Themes are balanced as well by difficulties that the main character, Andrew (well-played by Scott Gorbach) has in dealing with his own insecurities and relationships with others (including a fantastically aggressive Bernadette–Laren B. Smith and a saintly Jerrod–Stuart Hoffman).  I also have to give a shout out to my Ranger, Tyson Rand, who kicked ass and stole scenes as the burly bouncer and answering machine (with a phenomenal ponytail).

On the whole the play is fairly flimsy and the seams are visible, especially the moment where the play shifts gears and pushes toward a conclusion.  This is a common problem though with comedies, as one of my friends likes to point out, as there really is no cause for an ending at all but there must, by convention, be one.  Thus, as my friend points out, the true success of Monty Python in avoiding any contrived ending in its work and just ratcheting up the absurdity.  With theater, it seems, the path to contrivance is inevitable, and was the case in my own play when it was staged in 2008.  (After all, the play has to end somewhere, right?)  Satan is a play that makes one laugh as it slings mild criticism at certain aspects of how we relate to each other in our society as well as the things we place value on, but it doesn’t go beyond that–nor do I think it was meant to.

As usual, Clyde and convergence re-imagined the space of The Liminis in a wonderful way, transforming the space into a gay dance club.  Added to this is the comic story recounted by Clyde about the opening of The Liminis (nearly 10 years ago).  The space had been a bar named Club Juana Diaz, and when it re-opened as a theater a Tremont resident, who noted the “change in clientele walking toward the newly-opened Liminis, asked one of the passersby, ‘So, is the place now a gay bar or what?’”  The space had a functioning bar for the performance, a cage area for intimate dancing, a dance floor, and, of course, the light design (Cory Molner) accounted for that most excellent of dance club features.

There are some strategies that I noticed with interest including the constant narrative voice over used by Andrew’s character. So, as he is in action he narrates his inner thought processes to the audience. I don’t know if that technique has any resonance in Karamazov, but would assume it does.  I think the notion of narrative/monolog while the character is in motion doing something else is an interesting strategy to keep the forward movement of action in what would normally be a static section (given more traditional approaches to monologic moments). Narrative is one area in which I am particularly interested right now as my thesis play will use characters who often engage in direct address (I like the notion of polyvocality as a method of decentralizing “authority” in the text of the play as much as possible). So, aspects of how to handle narrative sections are of interest to me. In most cases I like the fact that direct address breaks the wall and calls attention to itself a la Brecht, and Jenkins, and Overmyer, etc., and the interactional effect that this has on the relationship with the audience.

Another strategy I’ll comment on is that Aguirre-Sacasa’s script must leave blank space to allow for the staging company to “insert here” whatever local setting is desired.  Over lunch at the Dramatists Guild daylong event several of the playwrights were discussing this strategy for “localizing” a script and whether it had the intended effect.  For instance, there is a moment when Andrew flees Jack and ends up walking home through a bad neighborhood wearing only a towel.  In this instance, the proper name “Kinsman” was inserted to provide that local flavor–essentially pointing to a “bad” area in Cleveland.  There were other instances of this as well.  Is this an effective strategy?  Some playwrights found it to be contrived, obvious, and pandering.  One playwright felt that it threw him out of the play, drawing an awareness to external reality of the viewing location.  I’m sure there were audience members who felt that it was “neat” and had a comic effect.  One playwright was reminded of the openings of stand-up routines or rock concerts where the refrain is: “Hello, Cleveland” or whatever city.  I personally feel that if you can make it as generic as possible and yet retain the essence of the thing, that is a better way to go, rather than localizing it in such a way.  In life there are enough archetypal elements that they can be applied regardless of the locale: all cities have “bad” areas, hospitals, laundromats, etc.  Making them overtly local is just being cute.


June 22nd, 2009 No comments

I think what I like best about this play (other than the two leading ladies) is the manner in which relationships are distilled to raw absurdity. Melanie Marnich regularly compresses time to generate hysterical representations–sort of like coal being squeezed to present a diamond, or pressing fruit to extract juice. You get the idea.

Two plates (as in tectonics) meet in Quake

Two plates (as in tectonics) meet in Quake

Laurel Johnson is the big hit in this one (no surprise here) as That Woman: a hip-slappin’ hottie who can out-philosophize you, out fuck you, and then kill you when she’s wrung you out. Lucy (Erin Scerbak) is the naïve vixen screwing her way across the country looking for Mr. Goodbar, culminating in her own brutal run in with a predictably brutal grease-monkey (Tom Kondilas) who excels at playing casually aggressive male characters.

I’d like to say that this play did something for me, other than the scintillation occasioned by various physical antics—that and the very funny comedic moments from both Christian Prentice and Stuart Hoffman as the various Mr. Goodbar candidates adopted by Lucy in her travels. But it really didn’t.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was funny and there were some very good theatrical moments that Arthur Grothe managed very well (I especially liked getting a drill thrust toward my face—if you like that sort of thing sit in the front row, stage left). But Marnich’s piece was only good for breadth, not depth and it was never clear to me that Lucy’s ‘big love’ was anything more than an onanistic quest that barely did more than disregard all the Goodbars.

The most compelling moment is the late meeting between Lucy and That Woman, where That Woman poignantly reflects on what she sacrificed in settling down—a theme with which I have become all-too-familiar lately. It is the one moment of true, possible connection in the piece and one that Lucy rejects (does she reject her ‘big love?’). Unfortunately, I’m not entirely convinced that Lucy understands the choice, so its impact is undermined as she wanders into the Pacific in her blithering naivety.

Overall, I enjoyed the play, but mostly for its episodic nature and the fact that I love convergence and love seeing these people engaged in ‘play making.’

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