Saturday, August 07, 2010

I see dead people!

When you've run a writers group for almost ten years, combined with seeing off-off Broadway plays of friends and acquaintances, you notice certain trends and ways of thinking.

There's a definite trend when writing about the 9-11 tragedy. In three separate plays, written by people who don't know each other, the set-up was this: somebody died on 9-11, but their significant other still believes them to be alive - and we are not let in on the reality until the very end of the play. In all three cases this makes for an annoying sensation of having been ripped off. You've been watching the hallucinations of a crazy person, which have no actual consequences.

It's sad of course, when someone loses their loved one, but to watch someone hallucinate is to remove you from any actual story, with actual cause-and-effect. It prevents the emotional orgasm that is the true goal of any theatre production.

I suppose it could be claimed that the hallucinations are a metaphor for the person's grief, but there's no reason to have a metaphor for grief. We all get grief. And billions of people have lost someone they loved without going nuts and believing the dead person is still alive.

Two of these plays I saw as readings, but one was a full production I saw at Manhattan Theatre Source in September 2007. And for once I wasn't alone in my response to a play - the actor I attended the show with, a former friend I'll call G - emailed me the next day to discuss the shortcomings of the play, along with other topics. The subject line of his email was: "I see dead people!"

A rare moment of honesty in the phony happy-talking off-off Broadway theater world.