Back To Seeing Theater

black.jpgEvery city has their big, giant theater that’s screwed no matter what they do. In Chicago, it’s the Goodman; in Austin, it’s Zach Scott; here it’s ACT.

ACT gets dinged for only doing big, safe revivals. Unless they do a world premiere, when they get dinged for doing a big, sprawling, confusing world premiere. Now they’ve done a small, new-ish, controversial, adult play, and people I know are still complaining.

Yes, there are problems. The house is just too damn big, so staging is always tough. And this play, David Harrower’s BLACKBIRD, is really problematic in such a space. It’s meant to be two people in a little room, but the stage is enormous, so they’re often way across the stage from each other, shouting intimate conversation so the folks in the balcony can hear.

But let’s give some props for putting on this show in the first place. It’s a good play, in my humble opinion (despite the fact that it won an Olivier Award for best play, which is often a kiss of death among us hipster theater folks). It’s provocative, controversial, tense, intriguing. It has fractured language that’s both realistic and theatrically heightened. And it’s mysterious. No easy wrap-up or melodramatic endings. I’m really glad I saw it, and I really want to read it.

Given a choice between a sometimes-awkwardly staged BLACKBIRD and the three millionth version of UNCLE VANYA, I’d take this play any day. Just don’t sit beyond about Row K.


3 Replies to “Back To Seeing Theater”

  1. I’ve always thought that the enjoyment of theater begins to break down beyond the tenth row. After that, the farther back you are, the worse the plays gets, no matter what the play.

  2. I second that. The worst experience I ever had was seeing SIDE MAN from the third balcony, crammed up against a wall with my knees in my chest. I’m not sure what those tiny people were doing down on the stage, but it sure didn’t reach me.

  3. I saw this play on the closing day. I liked that the playwright explored the gray area instead of condemning one character or the other. Though, I was left wanting…but not in a good way. I felt like an opportunity was missed. I wanted more risk on the part of the narrative. Sure it was dramatic. But I don’t know. I have a tough time articulating it. Was it theatrical? Was there anything at risk for the characters. Sure they delved deep into their past and confronted their relationship and we saw how complicated their attraction was…but then what? Tell you what though, never gonna pay that much for tickets again! From now on it’s comps or nothing.

    ps. Tim, I’m coming to see you in TGPM soon.

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