Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lascivious yammering

I recently saw the first half of Sheila Callaghan’s play LASCIVIOUS SOMETHING. Luckily it was a comp - I was so bored by intermission I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting through any more of it, so I left. Why was I so bored? Because there was so much yakking about what the characters (or other people) did some other time, somewhere else. Those sounded like interesting times, I would have liked to have seen those times and places enacted. Instead what I saw on stage was a bunch of people mostly sitting around in a kitchen telling tales.

I was told by somebody who sat through the entire thing that I missed the best part – when Boy (actually a girl) plays a young August (the man in the play – an actual man), writing and editing aloud for the audience, his last letter to his mother.

Oh joy, watching somebody write AND edit a letter on stage. And this was a highlight. I guess the author wanted to mix things up a little - instead of yet another long-winded remembrance of things past - "did I ever tell you about the last letter I wrote to my mother?" - she has somebody else play somebody writing a letter - in the past - to a character not actually in the play. Ooh how cleverly distancing. As if the play needed any more distancing.

I’m not saying that an intrinsically undramatic scenario can never be made to work – I am a fan of the film “My Dinner with Andre” - but it’s pretty rare. Maybe if one of your characters is as personally fascinating as Andre Gregory – but none of the characters in LASCIVIOUS SOMETHING was that. They were mostly irritatingly inscrutable.

The NYTimes review says:
Ms. Callaghan spends an inordinate amount of time having Liza and August dance around each other and around August's pregnant young wife, Daphne, a willowy Greek beauty played with cool charisma by Elisabeth Waterston. Throwing in the married couple's psychosexual games with an androgynous teenager (Ronete Levenson) does little to clarify the relationship dynamics.
But if Callaghan didn't have the (utterly enervating) psychosexual games going on, then even the clueless people who like this play might realize how talky-talky and dull it actually is.

I was pretty disappointed in Callaghan - after the reviews I read about Callaghan's THAT PRETTY PRETTY I was very interested in her possibly pushing back against the angry young man play trope that has taken over NY theater. Well... maybe her next play. After all, if critics can give Adam Rapp many many chances (as I wrote about) why shouldn't Callaghan get them too?

Speaking of "My Dinner with Andre" it turns out the entire movie is available on YouTube.

Here is part one: