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Springboard — Again and Against — CPT

October 7th, 2011 2 comments

Went last night and saw the Springboard reading of Again and Against by Betty Shamieh. Being that it was a 2 character play that ran for 100 minutes, I would say that Shamieh did a good job holding attention and creating intriguing characters. It also is worth seeing for the mere fact that Beth Wood directs Raymond Bobgan and Chris Seibert. That said, **Spoiler Alert coming at you so don’t read on** the transition of Omar the Arab FBI agent from a “translator” bumbler to the “head of the department” mastermind at the end was a bit unbelievable, as were a host of traits he exhibited: anger, physical violence, language, and certain phrases (such as the use of “kid”—“don’t throw your life away, kid”), that I just didn’t buy.

I learned in discussion after the play that this play by Shamieh has been staged before, on the continent. That surprised me. The play felt unfinished and unfocused and as if it were searching for what it meant. It is a play in which truth is the actively sought-after goal and the “truth” of these characters is never clear. I thought this was a flaw in the play and a part of the reading/development process. After learning that this play has been staged before, it is likely that the inability to establish truth is intentional on Shamieh’s part. That is what I must conclude about the play. Almost like the inability to establish meaning in Waiting for Godot, there is a fundamental inability to find out what is true—for the audience, for the characters, and perhaps for the actors.

The play covers a lot of volatile turf from Arab American treatment to 9/11, to terrorism and the ideas of what that means—from both the “American” perspective and the perspective of others toward or about Americans. Sometimes the play got a bit preachy and journalistic, trying to report facts—for instance about the U.S. policy (unstated but enacted) of handing over terror suspects to Syria for “debriefment”. With Syria having more flexibility in its approaches to detainees than the U.S., which is “hamstrung” by a thing called the Constitution.

There is a great amount of humor in the play, which is important, again, as the thing would be depressing and possibly didactic if left un-interrupted or if the rhythm didn’t alter in the playing. There are some surprisingly strong moments, one of which comes from Omar the Arab FBI agent describing the murder by an Arab father of his daughter for disobeying him. That moment alone is worth seeing the piece and makes me think one very personal concern of Shamieh is the treatment of Arab women by Arab men. A sad fact of this play is that this amazing story from Omar is later “taken away” in a brief moment where Omar says that he made it up. That is part of the confusion of this play, and perhaps the disappointment. I understand that there is much to be gained by playing with the nature of truth and that this has been successfully done in other genres—think The Usual Suspects [Blu-ray] for instance. I just don’t know if it is effective here, as there is nothing for me to hang my hat on or walk away with except a strange vague suspicion about something. And the thought that maybe, maybe this was her point… but I can’t be sure.

The big draw for this reading was seeing Chris Seibert and Raymond Bobgan acting together. It was worth it. If you’re on the fence about Springboard or this piece in particular: go and see it. With Beth Wood directing and Raymond and Chris starring it is something to see and be a part of.

CPT’s 11/12 Season

October 4th, 2011 No comments

CPT 2011/2012

Got the message below from Beth Wood, Associate Artistic Director, of CPT today. (I’ve modified and marked it up for my own diabolical purposes though.) (Also, as exciting as all this is, I’m really looking forward to Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant…)

CPT is kicking off its 2011/2012 season with a new series, Springboard; a Staged Reading Festival that will feature eight new works. (I am proud to say that my play, Andrew Jackson ate my Homework will be one of them.)

  1. FREE BEER after the show on Fridays! (This will be happening ALL season too!)
  2. Raymond Bobgan and Chris Seibert will kick off Springboard by performing in the stage reading of Again and Against by Betty Shamieh this Thursday (October 6th) and Saturday (October 8th). I am looking forward to seeing Raymond on stage
  3. Springboard is striving to break the rules of conventional staged readings. There will be no actors just standing around and reading a play. Directors, playwrights and actors are “making bold, adventurous choices with each piece”. (Thank you very much) And everyone at CPT is truly striving to create the best possible production of each script within the confines of just a few rehearsals and minimal technical support (which is very impressive and demonstrates CPT’s commitment to new work).
  4. You get to see and experience more than Springboard. With a purchased ticket to any CPT performance this fall, you get free admission to Royal Ann’s Preserve, a performance installation created by Faye and Joan Hargate. According to Wood: “I experienced this piece at Pandemonium and it is beautiful and moving.” The installation is in the storefront just east of the box office and will be open a half hour before and after the show.
  5. Tickets to Springboard are only $10! Or you can purchase a pass to the entire festival for only $30. If you purchase a pass, you can come to the festival as many times as you want. Even if you don’t come to all eight of the readings, you could come to CPT for the next three Fridays, see some cool pieces in development, AND get FREE BEER after the show. As Wood notes: “You can’t beat that!!” (You really can’t)

Springboard runs October 6 – 23; Thursday – Saturday @ 7pm and Sundays @ 3pm.

If you come on Thursday, October 6th, there will be an opening reception for the series. There will be pizza, snacks and drinks at the reception.

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