Sunday, January 08, 2012

play pet peeves

I just perused the database and on a quick spot check noted that the following play titles were given to more than one unique play:

10 plays entitled HAUNTED
11 plays entitled STUCK 
12 plays entitled UNDERGROUND
14 plays entitled AFTER THE FLOOD
15 plays entitled MOTHER’S DAY
16 plays entitled LOVE
16 plays entitled BAGGAGE
36 plays entitled HOME

I kid you not - thirty-six plays, written by thirty-six people, named HOME.

I noticed the unoriginality of play titles because I do calls for plays periodically, most recently for the NYCPlaywrights January play of the month.

I first noticed this phenomenon because many years ago I saw Jessica Goldberg's STUCK. Wow, did I hate that play. It was definitely a play during which I wanted to rip my own head off. And then I kept seeing other plays also named STUCK. Naming your play STUCK is not a good sign. Chances are it's about your characters being stuck. Which means utterly boring. In the case of Goldberg's characters, they were so bored that they decided to exchange underpants. Yes, they did. Apparently that is something that we are expected to believe two human beings would actually do. I suppose Goldberg thought it would be titillating or something. Maybe for some people. As for me, it made me want to puke.

Although without a doubt the worst play I ever saw - I went to see it to support Synge Maher, who was directing a play of mine at the time, is Mr. Cupcake. I don't think I've ever seen such a putrified conglomeration of crass ugliness and treacly sentimentality in my entire life. The only reason I was able to save myself from ripping my own head off was by bailing out during intermission. I still have nightmares about that play.

Another thing I've noticed from years of reading other people's plays - the frequent obession with very exact character ages. They can't say "30-something" or even "mid-30s." Many playwrights have to state the exact age.

This is especially true of plays dealing with heterosexual relationships. In fact, you can tell immediately if a male and female character in the character list will be in a relationship just by looking at their ages: if the man is between 1 and 10 years older then they will be in some kind of romantic/sexual pairing. I assume many playwrights are afraid that if you just say a man and a woman are “in their 30s” you might cast a 30 year old man and a 39 year old woman. Apparently this is viewed as an offense against God and Nature.

I read a play today that had these characters listed:
JAKE... a 33-year-old baseball player

MARIE... a pretty, 35 or so mother of a Little Leaguer, a lawyer

I found this very strange. Normally the man would be two years older. Certainly this looked like a potential romantic pairing, since the woman is described as "pretty" - the appearance of the man in a romantic pairing is never described, especially if the play is written by a man.

So I read the play, and found this:
JAKE: (Pause) He's too old for you.

MARIE: You were too young for me.

Ah. Mystery solved. She's too old for him. Because she's TWO FUCKING YEARS OLDER!