Friday, February 20, 2015

Amateur hour in Greenwich Village

It was my own fault, really, for not reading the fine print for the Short Play Festival. This festival is one of those where audience members vote for their favorite play - and what that always means is that the biggest amateurs win, because they get the most people to come out and see their show - because their having any play at all being performed, even a short play, anywhere, much less in New York City, is still an exciting novelty for them, their friends and usually, their actors.

So the worst plays and worst performances and worst direction win. That's democracy in action, in the arts.

The acting, directing and writing of the three other plays in the line-up tonight were just abysmal. And I'm not saying that SODOM & GOMORRAH: THE ONE MAN SHOW is the greatest play ever  written - I entered another play into this festival, about a struggle between a prostitute and a john, called JASMINE, and it's a much better play - but serious, not wacky, and I assume wacky is what the judges were looking for so that's why it was rejected.

But S&G is damn tight - there is not a moment or a line wasted. It's a silly sex farce, and a sex farce has to be tight to work. And my actors know how to act. And my direction was better than all the others if for no other reason than it wasn't completely stupid.

I don't usually notice bad direction because I'm too focused on the quality of the play script but I was amazed at how bad the direction of the first play in the lineup was.

Here's how bad the direction was - but wait, first the horrible plot: a woman is having a yard sale, a man shows up early, they flirt inanely with references to good literature (the woman is a teacher) and much much better famous plays, and some pointless negotiating over a cat lawn statue (I think that's what it was supposed to be) some moronic references to panties, and then they agree to meet up in the future and have sex. It is revealed that the man is married and his wife is in a car circling the block (I think because there's no parking - I don't remember but that must have been the reason although when I drove a car to New Orleans, the pointlessly specific setting of the play, I don't remember parking being all that hard to come by) and honking every so often.

OK first the horrible acting though - this idiotic plot can only work if the man is incredibly hot. The actor cast was not only not hot, he couldn't act and he had exactly zero charisma. Thanks to this bad piece of casting, I'd sooner believe a scenario where a garbageman shows up making his weekly rounds and a woman agrees to meet up with him later to have sex.

And speaking of bad casting - Jesus was this bad direction! The woman is having a yard sale, and so the director could have put almost anything on stage as a for-sale item - and the director actually had a whole bunch of "junk" strewn across downstage, as well as some stuff on a folding table. So at one point the woman recounts a conversation she had in the past and uses her hands to mime talking mouths - when the director could have put puppets or figurines or any number of other items on the junk table and could have used them to mime talking - and would have been actually funny!

And about those sets - every other play except ours had these pointlessly busy sets! The first play was bad, but the second play was even worse!

But first the stupid, stupid, ridiculous plot - the plots of the other plays made Sodom & Gomorrah seem like complete kitchen sink realism by comparison. In the second play a straight woman talks a gay man into having sex with her. And then he forgot where he put his stash of condoms. That's the whole play. These were the set pieces for this ridiculous play: a sofa, a room divider, two chairs, blocks to make a coffee table, a cart of crap, AND crap strewn around the stage to give the impression that the characters are slobs. It took them like five minutes to strike this mess, and I was especially annoyed because my play went on next. And then, even though I had personally asked the actors before the show to leave one of the chairs on stage so we could use it - and a chair is our ONLY set piece - they started to strike the chair and I had to yell from the audience "leave the chair!" Jesus. H. Christ.

The last play of the evening, which came after ours, was only slightly less obnoxious than the other two - it was about two virgins who decide to get intimate. The play was still badly written though, and took much longer than it needed to, and you could see what was going to happen a mile away.

The set was less busy than the other two, but it was still pointlessly busy - there was a bed AND a table and chair - the table was for the female character to type on her laptop - like they couldn't have simply recycled the fucking sofa from play #2 in the lineup.

But the most absurd aspect of the play is that these two characters, played by actors at least in their mid-20s, not only never had sex but seemed completely unfamiliar with porn. There is one point in the play where they watch some online porn (with obnoxious loud sex noises played during) and they seem amazed by it. I can only assume that the author of the piece is incredibly old or from another planet, to be unaware of the fact that free online porn has been available for at least 10 years and virtually all 20-somethings alive in the United States today have seen every sex act known to humanity by the time they were at least sixteen.

So now I'm torn - I want to support my actors and I do enjoy watching them do my play, which not only takes the least amount of time to set, but also has the shortest actual playing time. But it will be torture to sit through those other three plays even once more, much less three more times.

What to do...