Monday, September 27, 2010

Theatre Reviews: Krapp and Crap

If I had more time in my life, and a workstation, and well, a couple other things, I would write theatre reviews as I left the theatre or as soon as I got home. I would take notes, I would keep the program to refer to it, I would spend time on it.
I do these things occasionally, but rarely, and so this space is often left for the truly good, and the truly bad.

The first play I went to see last week was the first of my season subscription with CanStage, Fernando Krapp Wrote Me This Letter.
I'm thinking this was not the season I should have subscribed for as they plan to "test the limits of theatre" and a bunch of other not-appealing words from the program. I read The Star review, we were both there opening night, and I agree with like two things, the rest it's like he was on another planet. I agree with the 2.5 out of 4 stars and with the line "Ashley Wright gives a panto-level buffoon performance as the eponymous Krapp". I thought the actor playing The Count stole the show, getting huge applause during and after the show and stealing every scene he was in. The Star says: "Ryan Hollyman lacks any class whatsoever as The Count". Did you stay for the curtain call when he got the biggest ovation?
I think crowds in Toronto are too cheap with their standing ovations in general. On this occasion, opening night, with the author (from Germany!) in attendance, only about half the audience stood, the rest, including me, stayed steadfastedly seated.
I thought the performances fine in general, even the story was interesting, and most of my 2.5 stars are for bringing something new, in this case German new-wave theatre, to Toronto, and for making me think.
That being said, I'm still thinking a week later. The play makes no sense, starting off with an arresting story and beautiful sets and ending with an alternate reality (I think??) and people talking through vocoders.
The problem is the play cannot be understood, at least not from the script, and that as a device works rarely, and not here.

The second play I saw last week was The Great Farini Project. I had really wanted to see this and was looking forward to it all week.
The premise made it seem like "The Prestige" with one acrobat daredevil trying to out-fox the other. There were adds all over the gay village, alluding to the gay themes, and it sounded great. Also advertised was the high wire tricks and flying over the audience, what's not to love.
Well, I'll tell you what's not to love.
The piece was mainly dance. There was no plot. There was little dialogue. It opened with each man dancing individually, and occasionally together, stoping to recite what seemed like random words to each other, I can't imagine they were scripted. So 10 minutes of individual dance, then 60 seconds of one saying "Anarchy!", and the other saying "Potato!", and repeat. Then back to the dancing for 10 minutes, then more words. This took up the first hour of the play, during which no plot was revealed, no dialogue spoken more than a sentance long, and no dance moves of note were displayed. I quickly fell asleep.
I must have been snoring as I was awoken when one of the actors threw a ball at my chest which bounced off and slid under my seat. In my defence, the guy beside me was sleeping too. Now we were in the front row, but how was I to know this would be beyond terrible?
Once awoken, I watched as the actors mounted some gizmo, about an hour into the "play" and hovered over the audience, which was amusing. There was no reason for doing so, and no "plot" was revealed, but at least it woke me up.
Now the Star of course called the play "Delightful". It goes on to say "Wyatt's... resonant voice is prone to sibilance." Even after I looked up the word in the dictionary I still don't understand what it means. Basically the review also gives 2.5 out of 4 stars yet does nothing to explain why the review is not higher, writing away their own criticism with "in fairness, given the physical stress of the dancing, it’s a wonder they have breath to declaim anything, especially when they must compete with a pastiche score of this and that." Using yet another word that is beyond definition. Helpful.
The problem with such a poorly acted, non-plotted, boring mess, is that it turns me off going to unknown plays. I see listings and think of how terrible this one was and it makes me not want to go. For the record, this was the second worst play I've ever seen, worse than XXX Live Nude Girls, which at least didn't pretend to be unpretentious, and not as bad as If We Were Birds, which has to be the worst play ever written, and the winner of a Dora Award, of course.
One last thing. For the first 15 minutes of this play, I was watching one of the lead actors and wondering why they give him a prop hand of a tiny doll. He was supposed to be an acrobat so why the prop hand? When he took off his coat, I realized it was his real hand. I would suggest putting it more out there in future, getting it out of the way early on to stop people from guessing. Also I was thinking that having a hand like that has probably held him back in life in social situations and I was overcome by a "Who the fuck cares?" Your hand isn't perfect, who cares? And I wanted to give that to him for a moment, to transfer it from my brain to his like Dumbledore and his pensive in Harry Potter, that no one minded, that no one cared, and that hopefully if it had ever held him back, it would never do so again.
Which got me thinking of my own maladies. Could "Who the fuck cares?" be applied to myself?

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