Posts Tagged ‘Jordan Harrison’

Lost…in the Underworld

October 27th, 2009 No comments

So, I’m catching up on a play-viewing backlog and, unfortunately, this review will seem a bit terse from the lapse of time. I’ll start at an uncomfortable place: as I reported in my entry dated September 16th, I was pretty pumped about seeing Finn in the Underworld at convergence. But the seeing didn’t translate into what I thought, and the seeing actually accentuated some problems with the script that I didn’t notice earlier in reading it.

Probably the most glaring problem was a rather large plot hole in Harrison’s script that undermines the credibility of a substantial element of the thing. Toward the end of the first act, Rhoda tells Gwen (the two are cleaning out their family home) that she just had a conversation with Carver Bishop, a neighbor who lived in the crummy little eye-sore of a house down the street. The only problem being that Carver died a year before. This fact is pointed out in a rather dramatic moment by Gwen and a stunned Rhoda has to deal with the fact that, like her weird sister, she now sees ghosts. This would be a compelling moment, aside from the fact that Rhoda has lived in the town her entire life and visited her family house all the time during that period. The fact that she somehow lived in the town for 30+ years and did not know that Carver Bishop died and somehow failed to notice that the house down the street (the house that everyone hated) had been (finally) torn down, is just beyond believability. The whole moment was thus revealed as a fraud–that is, a plain writing device for effect that is destroyed by its own misconception; and I found myself asking questions about the integrity of what Harrison was doing. For instance, was this ‘hole’ an intentional thing? Was it an oversight? Neither really sit on the palate so well. Also, the revelation of Carver as a ghost, as a structural thing, (in light of the error and unusual dramatic focus) becomes comic rather than titillating. The fact, also, that the revelation happens late in the act reveals that the construction of the piece was directed too much toward an emphasis on this point.

In reflection, this was not so much a factor in the reading as it was in the watching, as the ghost reveal seemed to take forever as I watched–maybe because I was expecting it? On top of this, the horror effect is not elevated enough in other aspects of the play–or maybe not enough emphasis was placed on it in the production. But I think Harrison himself seems to highlight Gwen’s addiction to pills as if that is enough of a placeholder to carry the horrifying aspects of the house–when, really, too many things can lead to addiction today, and too many things in Gwen’s life particularly, so the house seems to take third fiddle to a broken down marriage and a bad mother-son relationship. It is suggested that the pills are precisely because she sees ghosts, but I don’t think that point is pointed enough, nor does it, inandofitself carry the weight that true gothic tension would carry. And the fact of a past murder or “accident” in the house is really moved over too quickly to be a concern.

Ultimately, I think, Harrison tries to do too much, so that nothing is in focus. The mother-son issues aren’t given enough attention, the horror element (house) isn’t given enough attention, the ghost story isn’t given enough attention, the sister relationship isn’t given enough attention, the sexual relationship between Finn and Carver is given too much attention–almost nauseatingly too much attention. There is a cell phone conversation with a distant character that has nothing to do with the action of the play. The confirmation that reading a play and seeing a play are very different is here demonstrated as the script and commentary read like a nice little book and the play played out like a disorienting exercise in confusion. As Mike Geither, said about this play, it’s almost like Harrison isn’t finished with it–or it was rushed to completion.

The production at convergence led to confusion in the second act, I’m sorry to say, as the direction in the play script is explicit that the second act takes place in the bomb shelter. The space constraint would have led to intense claustrophobia and intensified character relationships and definitions by the physical proximity. This instruction was cast aside and the cast spread out across the set. This fact led to confusion amongst people I’ve talked to since who could not understand why the characters changed relationships like they did and were confused about the clock and why it was used before but not after and so on. The constriction to the bomb shelter would have made the “underworld” apparent and would have highlighted the captive nature of the family in the house and the surreal nature of it all. I am reminded of the quote from Hamlet, Scene II, “I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space.” But here the bounding is cast aside altogether and the characters wander freely about the set, confusing the boundaries that should have been strict. Small technical things, too, were odd: choices such as moving from the hands of an analog clock to a digital clock were disappointing, as the movement of hands showed direction (forward and backward), but the digital clock threw things out of state. I can understand that (unfortunately) some people may not be able to tell time, but if movement by the hands is done correctly, people will understand without even needing explicit times.

The character of Finn drawn by Gorbach was too much of a spoiled brat rather than a caustically disconnected and injured character and that further undermined what tension there could have been and I wished there would have been a bit more sophistication in him.

I still enjoyed the fact that Harrison played with time and that the play was delivered in pieces that were out of order. The fracturing gave some weight to a piece that, in the end, seemed thin.

Interviews — Finn in the Underworld

September 24th, 2009 No comments

I recently completed a series of interviews with the director and cast of convergence-continuum’s upcoming production of Jordan Harrison’s Finn in the Underworld: a “psychosexual gothic horror” story, just in time for Halloween.

Please take some time and check them out:

%d bloggers like this: