Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Slings & Arrows 2/3 - a new appreciation

I recently rewatched seasons 2 and 3 of the legendary Slings & Arrows. And they are both much better than I remembered - although admittedly I didn't remember a whole lot about either of them - I think I just fast-forwarded through season three and didn't even recall that

(spoiler alert!)

Darren Nichols is made artistic director at the end of the season.

But my perspective has changed about many things in the six or seven years since the shows were released - about directing, actors, therapy, all kinds of things.

Part of the problem I think is that season 1 is just so perfect. There's never a dull moment. The only complaint I have is that I was never convinced that Jack Crew (Luke Kirby) became a good Hamlet. His delivery is always extremely flat.

In the TV Tropes entry for S&A, they mention a Leitmotif and say: "Several, particularly ones for Geoffrey's madness/creativity and final performances."

I'd say more than several - every time any character is doing a good acting job you can hear the leitmotif, which is mainly a harp and percussion, used to convey the magic of the thee-ay-tah. And it doesn't have to be a professional actor either - you can hear it in this performance by an accountant around minute 4 in the clip, in a class taught by Geoffrey Tennant. The accountant is played by S&A co-author Bob Martin, who also co-wrote and starred in the musical THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. 

And in season three we hear the leitmotif when an overweight woman in a nursing home is doing a Titania monologue from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Which I think is very nice, to use it for the non-professional actors.

I was really surprised when they used a variation of the leitmotif in some exchanges between Richard and the guy from Froghammer, the wacky (and fraudulent) advertising agency that Richard hires to market the New Burbage Festival - you can hear it in this exchange where the Froghammer guy is telling Richard to embrace his right-brained self - at minute 3:30.

It's interesting that the musical production in season 3 seems to be a spoof of RENT - considering how much S&A mocks the show, you'd think they hate musicals - except for the involvement of Bob Martin and Don McKellar (plays Darren Nichols) in DROWSY CHAPERONE. Maybe they just hate bad musicals. 

One of my favorite aspects of S&A is the Darren Nichols character and his embodiment of the awful, extreme postmodernist approach to theater - at one point Geoffrey (who hates Darren) says that Darren "hates the theater" - and I suddenly thought of Mac Wellman. Darren's staging of Romeo and Juliet as a chess game is certainly as anti-narrative, anti-emotional, ultra-postmodernist as any play by Wellman. 

There's no excuse for any theater person to have missed Slings & Arrows - the entire thing is available for free on Youtube.