Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sight Unseen, Lunch Revisited

I went to a mass actor audition thing yesterday and to my great dismay was treated to two versions of the same ghastly monologue, one of the most nauseating examples of self-loving male puppetry ever forced down the throats of female actors:
PATRICIA: I can't describe the pleasure I had being your muse. The days and nights I sat for you. It thrilled me, watching you paint me. The connection. The connection was electric. I could see the sparks. I never felt so alive as when I sat naked for you, do you know that?
Now I did some nude modelling when I was a desperately poor single mother and I don't care if the painter is young Elvis in a thong, it's not a pleasurable experience. I bet a hundred bucks Donald Margulies never did even 2 minutes of sitting naked for a painting.

I can't believe any female actor with an ounce of self-respect would choose that monologue, with its pre-1969 levels of female passivity and self-abasement. I'd have a hard time casting someone who picked it - I'd just automatically assume she's an idiot.

The monologue is not only obnoxious in itself, it is obnoxious because it encapsulates the mind-blowing irritation level of Sight Unseen, a play about the playwright's desire to be worshipped, especially by females, for his artistic importance and power. Donald Margulies admits in the latest issue of the Dramatists Guild magazine that Sight Unseen is a thinly disguised self-portrait. I'd lock that shit away, Dorian Gray.

The Patricia character isn't the only female who appreciates Jonathan the Important Painter. The other female in the play is an attractive German woman who is interviewing him about his art, and the importance of his art, to give the playwright a chance to wax philosophical on the importance of art. Not that he REALLY needs your goddam worship, thank you very much.
JONATHAN: What I am today? What am I today? I just got here. People like you suddenly care what I have to say.
GRETE: I do care.
JONATHAN: I know you do. It cracks me up that you do; it amuses me.

Women care so much about him and his art, and yet he doesn't care about their adulation. No, not really. He can live without it. Protest much, bitch?

The Patricia character doesn't merely worship Jonathan and his art though. By rejecting her, Jonathan has ruined her life. Thanks to Jonathan, Patricia had to marry an English guy she doesn't really desire. The only time they have hot sex is when Jonathan comes to visit, because his proximity turns Patricia into an animal.

Male critics, and most critics are male, adore this play, which is a big reason why it's considered an Important Play That We Can All Learn Something From. To get a sense of the gender divide, consider this item from a recent production. A rare female critic notes:
The final scene (the second flashback of the play), surely intended to be a poignant last look at love lost, feels unfinished in this production, leaving the audience confused, saying (as the woman sitting behind me did) "is that it?" at the end of the show.
The critic blames the director, but the problem is the script. I think the woman who said "is that it?" assumed incorrectly, because Patricia does get a few lines not explicitely about Jonathan's importance, that this is a play about their relationship. Oh no no no, woman in the audience. This play is the story of the godlike power and sexual attractiveness of the Great Man of the Arts, who can ruin women's lives forever with his indifference. The little men of the arts never tire of that story. And since we are trapped in a Patriarchy you can expect to see this play revived again and again.