Friday night was our final night of NY theater, and we went with Laura Rohrman‘s suggestion of Craig Wright‘s Lady at the Rattlestick. In keeping with the theme of the trip, the acting was unbelievable. In a theater that small, even a brief moment of the actor tuning out, a tiny flicker of “I wonder if we’re going out after,” can take you out of the show.
None of that here. These guys were completely on, in what one of the critics called “a master class in naturalism.” Michael Shannon, in particular, had no trace of acting in his performance; it was like a guy wandered onto the stage and happened to fit right into the show. Damn!
The play is pretty brilliant, weaving in some political issues in such a smooth way that you never see it coming and never feel a false note. It’s dark and twisted and funny and has some incredible dialogue, some fantastic moments that stick with you for days, and a wonderful way of layering in the backstory without ever feeling like exposition. Just a wonderful, fantastic, adjective-busting play.
But I will say, this play also kept up with another theme of the trip by not having a real ending. I was kind of shocked when the play just sort of stopped. The play zips along at such a compelling speed that, when the lights go down, you can’t possibly believe ninety minutes have passed, and that the play’s over. “There? That was the end? But what about the — how’s about the — aren’t they gonna…?”
Now, I’m not the type who needs a happy ending all wrapped up with a bow. But this play really got me thinking about how often plays nowadays sort of fade out. No “son-of-a-bitch stole my watch.” No “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? I am, George…I am.” No “Shall we go? Yes, let’s go.”
I wonder if it has something to do with the influence of television. So many episodes of TV end with a — not a cliffhanger, per se, but a suggestion that there’s more to the story and you should come back next week. I wonder if that’s permeating the subconscious of a lot of us writers, making us afraid to have a definite lights out, blackout, curtain down, satisfying moment to end our plays.
After seeing five plays that had that “slow fade to black” feeling, I wanted to immediately run back and look at the end of my plays and see whether they have a sort of “end of story, end of play” moment or if they just sort of fade out and make the audience go: “Oh. That’s it? Huh.”
Anyway. After the show, we met up with Davina Cohen and Zac Jaffee for drinks at a little cafe around the corner. There’s something great about meeting up with friends in a city you don’t even live in. And Davi and Zac (and Davi’s awesome friend whose name I’m not sure how to spell—Taka?) made for a fantastic night of chatting and laughing and talking theater.
After-afterward, we walked all the way back to our hotel. A luxury we don’t have in San Francisco, where there’s absolutely no way we can walk home that doesn’t involve hiking up a ginormous hill. A fantastic night that left no indication how the universe was about to screw us in our attempt to fly home.
(See? No ending. Just a suggestion that there’s more to the story.)