Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rabbit Hole at OSF

In theatre blogs, this play has been pummelled as being too simple and accessible and direct as a narrative.

Some have even hurled the worst insult you can ever throw at a play these days in calling it film-ready and worse, no better than TV. At Time Out New York, David Cote - a pretty good reviewer and writer in my book - claims to have felt trapped to the point of hallucination when he saw the show at MTC. He used as an example of everything that's wrong with MTC programming - and, by extension, American Theatre.

It doesn't help that the play was awarded the Pulitzer earlier this week over three more obscure plays (one of which I've read - BULRUSHER - and the other of which I saw - ELLIOTT) that the Pulitizer Jury recommended.

In the blogosphere, THAT just fueled even more hatred - though I think the bloggers who fostered the conversations (Hunka and Playgoer) where most of the mudslinging occured in the comments sections were actually talking about something more interesting than the play. They were making a point about the Pulitizer process - and its meaning to theatre as they see it. (My opinion is, the Pulitizer counts, big big big time and as much as anyone might not like it, it stamps the work it endorses as the standard to work by and against.)

I had my own experience with the play about a week before all this happened. On Good Friday to be exact.

I did not hate the play.

But as it's not my cup of tea, I didn't love it either.

It is a simple, direct and most importantly, accessible narrative about grief. It is also a thoroughly middle class play. It is well constructed and has some funny things in it and even a dangerous moment or two.

Writing one of these kinds of plays is extremeley difficult because it has to all be logical so all the levers that get pulled work. In this sense, the play wasn't completely perfect. I'm not sure I bought that the wife was trying to erase the kid by selling the house, getting rid of his stuff, etc, while the husband was trying to hold onto him by making sure his fingerprints weren't wiped away from walls etc. This is largely because the husband wanted to have another kid to restart and the wife didn't.

Now, I actually do not like language plays. I find them very boringly intellectual (sorry, but sic at Soho Rep was not for me at all). But straight up narratives - in the theatre - don't float my boat either (I like Shepard and Fornes and Machado) unless they're about something stunningly new to me. Or carry major insights. Or have some kind of Greek-ness to me (BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE).

So certainly, I sat in the theatre watching this play with some serious fidgeting. But unlike David Cote, I didn't hallucinate.

I'm still searching for the visceral play at OSF.

And while Rabbit Hole wasn't it, I didn't find it objectionable.

And since I'm a love it or hate it kinda guy, that indeed may be the problem.

EDIT: I have had a couple of great moments at OSF - I was reminded to my chagrin by someone who knows. My wife. Indeed, I had forgotten how great the production of KING JOHN was last year - in particular the scene where the kid's eyes were about to be put out by a hot poker. Fantastic. Then there was THE PIANO LESSON they did a few years back. The hair on the back of my neck rose whenever that freaking piano came alive. It was great.


malachy walsh said...
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Malachy Walsh said...

friend - over the phone - disagreed with me that this was a "middle class" play. He said it was peopled by middle class characters but that the issue at the play's center is not specifically a middle class problem - ie, defined as being only a middle class concern.

This is true.

He also suggested those who dismiss it for being middle class are, perhaps, albeit inadvertently, saying that the feelings and lives of middle class people don't matter.

And of course, they do. Very much.