Monday, January 26, 2015

Rating Rom-Coms

The play review team is reviewing the romantic comedies submitted to NYCPlaywrights - I thought we'd have it done by today, but health issues intervened and now it looks like we won't determine the winners until Thursday at the earliest.

In the meantime, I had to sort through all the almost 300 plays to weed out the ones that didn't suit the submission criteria, including all the "10-minute plays" that were 25 pages long.

After all that, I discovered that these are the signs I'm not going to like a 10-minute alleged romantic comedy:
  • The pages aren’t numbered. That’s just rude.
  • It’s obviously just an edited full-length, not a bona fide 10-minute play. You can tell when the first page begins with ACT I Scene 1.
  • It has a cast of more than 4 - some of the plays sent into this project had casts of 8 or 9 - meanwhile very few full-length plays by famous playwrights with casts that large are produced these days. And why do you need more than 4 characters for a ten-minute play? You don't want minor characters and walk-ons for a 10-minute play.
  • The ages are pointlessly precise - “32” instead of “early 30s." There is NO difference in casting - you can cast a 25-year-old or a 40-year-old to play a 32-year-old and "early 30s" is damn well good enough for the director.
  • The play is about people in their 50s and they constantly make references to how freaking ancient they are.
  • The woman is described as “attractive” or “pretty” while the man’s aesthetic appeal is left un-described. Not sure if I hate this more than the woman being described as more attractive than the man, which does happen pretty frequently.
  • The cast list includes:
  • Archetypes like cave people or Adam and Eve or Romeo and Juliet
  • Cupid
  • Famous people - this is absurd for a 10-minute play and it especially doesn’t work if one of the members of the couple isn’t famous.
  • The dynamic is unbalanced - a named character plus a “man” or “woman” or in one case "Scientist" and "Woman."
  • Non-human characters. I am uninterested in romance of any kind between/among non-humans.
  • Hyper-specific descriptions of the characters - like the man has a beard. Really? You expect an actor to grow a beard for a 10-minute play?
  • It’s about people meeting through a matchmaker or an online dating site. This may be a comedy (tastes vary) but it is never ever romantic. There is not a single solitary aspect of online dating or matchmaking that is romantic. At all. 
  • Page-long monologues.
  • Work not in the public domain - usually a song - used in the play.
  • There’s a big complex freaking stage set. This is a 10. Minute. Play. It would take longer to set up some of these sets than to perform the entire play. Not that we have to worry about that for a reading, but it’s usually a bad sign that this piece is just an edited-down full-length play or the playwright doesn’t understand 10-minute plays.
  • People standing on a ledge. It's amazing how many plays present this scenario.
  • The characters talk to the audience. Sometimes only to the audience which is just awful for a romantic comedy. A romantic comedy should be about two human beings connecting in some way, in addition to the sexual component.
  • The two characters are just meeting - this is especially bad when they’re in a park or public transportation and are random strangers who happen to be thrown together.
  • The play is composed of “vignettes” - IT’S A 10-MINUTE PLAY!!!
  • One or more characters are cheating on someone else. Cheaters are creeps and cannot be both romantic and comedic. The woman in The English Patient was cheating on her perfectly nice husband (played by Colin Firth) and the movie was romantic - but it wasn't a romantic comedy - both lovers are dead by the end of the movie. If cheaters are in a romantic comedy, they better have a damn good justification for cheating, otherwise it isn't a romantic comedy, it's a sex farce.
  • The play is attached to an email that describes the play as “offbeat” “dark” or in one case “perverted screwball”. That means it will NOT be an actual romantic comedy.