Thursday night, I went with my friend Rick McKern to see Berkeley Rep’s production (and the American premiere) of Will Eno’s TRAGEDY: a tragedy.
Now, here is the thing. As a non-reviewer, non-critic, blogger-type guy, I believe it’s my duty to let you in on stuff that affects my mindset going into a show. Like, was I pissed off because I was stuck in traffic and couldn’t park? Had I already read the play and so I knew how it was going to end? Was I sitting in front of an old lady who kept unwrapping candies all through the show?
(And what’s up with the freaking candy? Seriously, can’t you people make it an hour without a butterscotch? And if not, can’t you unwrap ten of them and put them in a baggie in your purse?!) (Errr, yes…when I was at the Aurora last month, I was sitting in front of an old lady who kept unwrapping candies all through the show.)
So with this show: my expectations had been lowered way, way down by someone who shall remain nameless (because I don’t want to embarrass Aaron). I was told about patrons falling asleep or walking out; about how the play starts strong and devolves into nothing; about how boring and overrated Eno’s Thom Pain (based on nothing) was.
Is it any surprise, then, that I ended up liking the show? I thought the comedic parts were often hilarious, the language often dazzling, the acting unbelievably good. I thought there were parts that were brilliant satire, parts that were nonsensical, and parts that were profound.
Yes, I think the play’s about 20 minutes too long. Ideally, it’d be a Fringe Festival piece that lasts about 50 minutes. (And being in the fringe instead of a subscription-based regional theater might mean fewer sleepy or confused people.)
So maybe it’s an expectations game thing. But maybe not: Rick liked it quite a bit, too, and he didn’t even know what we were seeing. Maybe it’s just a good, intriguing, challenging, slightly too long piece from a good writer.
I hope I didn’t just raise your expectations.