Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Now I'm intrigued

I thought I was the only person in the NY Theatre scene who was good and sick of the macho manly-man angry white man "brutal" playwrights so beloved of NY theatre critics, but I'm intrigued to see that Sheila Callaghan may be on the same wavelength, if this review in the NYTimes is any indication:
"That Pretty Pretty" takes aim at the many debased ways women are represented onstage and on screen. Ms. Callaghan has said she was inspired by a 2005 article in The New York Times about plays in which men behave badly.
(That article concludes, typically, that hey, that's just how guys are and if you don't like it you're uptight and PC and can't face the reality of glorious manliness, maaaaaan. But then I've long maintained that the NYTimes is a leading promoter of evolutionary psychology.)

Along with Ms. Fonda, the main characters are Agnes (Lisa Joyce) and Valerie (Danielle Slavick), bloodthirsty ex-strippers on a killing spree who are about as demure, complex and dignified as dancers in a Mötley Crüe video. They love random sex, skimpy clothes and Jell-O wrestling.

Agnes is performed with a ferocious, almost maniacal, flirtatiousness by Ms. Joyce, who, in Adam Rapp’s “Red Light Winter,” played just the kind of underdeveloped female character that this play mocks. She worships Howard Stern and dreams of breast enlargement, while Valerie likes to be beat up.

And the critics DO love the macho manly playwrights because they are so macho and manly and brutal. I said so a few years ago in my essay The Last Manly Man Playwright - the male critics really WANT the Rapp-type manly playwrights to succeed, and here is more proof in this review of Rapp's RED LIGHT WINTER from the Times - even though his work disappoints them again and again, they keep crowing about how promising he is (emphasis mine):
Mr. Rapp's desire to evoke an aching romanticism to match the barroom balladry of Tom Waits, which plays a small role in the play, ultimately dooms his better efforts to explore the desperate quality of young love with more complex insight. The claustrophobic atmosphere of "Red Light Winter" is gradually suffused with too many stale ideas about the cruel ironies and sometimes savage realities of romantic attraction. Mr. Rapp is a playwright of obvious promise and carefully honed gifts, and it's a hopeful sign that his writing continues to mature. Now he just needs to find something truly new or truly meaningful to say.

Rapp clearly is a total conservative when it comes to gender, with his macho men and his prostitute sexbots. So much so that it actually took me years to fully grasp the underlying, deep-seated misogyny. I saw Rapp interviewed on Theatre Talk when RED LIGHT WINTER was first produced and he and host Susan Haskins agreed that in hiring a prostitute, the sad sack character in RED LIGHT WINTER was getting an ego boost. This struck me as an extremely odd thing to say - from my perspective, resorting to hiring someone for sex is the opposite of self-esteem: you are forced to pay for somebody to touch you. I've been turning this conundrum over in my head for three years now, and only recently did it finally occur to me - this attitude comes from the mindset of extreme patriarchy. The reason that it's good for a man's self-esteem to hire a prostitute is because it re-inforces his standing in the pecking order. That any man is better than any woman because any man can always buy a woman. It reinforces his self esteem as a ruler over women and the traditional order of things.

That Susan Haskins apparently got this makes me wonder about her. I actually emailed her after the interview aired and asked her why she had said what she did, but she never got back to me.

But that's the mindset of the macho manly-man playwrights and their many many promoters and admirers. They're just too PC to come about and bluntly state exactly what they think about the relative worth of men vs. women on this planet, but the subtext is in all their work (macho playwrights AND macho-loving critics) for anybody who tunes into it.