About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


First, let it be said that the episode of Glee after the Super Bowl was simply dreadful. I've watched some Glee, and it can achieve real heights. This contrived boring uninteresting filled-with-bad-musical-numbers of songs-nobody-would-care-about episode was nowhere near anything good. A shame.

I saw three theatrical pieces in DC this past weekend.

Black Watch is a play I've been wanting to see very badly. It played in New York a year-and-a-half or so ago to rave incredible reviews and multiple extensions. It's two week tour stop in DC at the Shakespeare Theatre was the main impetus for heading down. It wasn't quite like the Shakespeare-shaped cookie cutter in the gift shop wasn't more interesting than the play, but closer than I'd have expected considering the reviews, that's for sure. The Black Watch is a Scottish military regiment which dates back to the 1880s and which served in Afghanistan. This play is too many things and not enough of any of them. It's framed as a journalist interviewing members of the regiment after their experiences in Afghanistan, but it doesn't have any characters. It has mouthpieces to tell the history of the regiment, or a little about the war in Afghanistan. Because it doesn't have characters, it can't get across a "war is hell" message near as good as a Full Metal Jacket. Because the history of the regiment isn't intrinsically interesting to a non-Scottish audience but is very important to the National Theatre of Scotland, whose production this is, it isn't sure whether to tell lots of history or little pieces of it. The staging is kind of all over the place. There's a lively but pointless scene where one member of the regiment is lifted off his feet multiple times so different kilts or hats can be put on him to symbolize different parts of the regiment's history. It's different, at least. The setting makes decent use of the steel box shelter unit which I'm told is used in the military theatre. At the end, everyone marches around the stage in something that seems to be the "war is hell" moment where members of the regiment falter and get back up, but it's a gesture. And it goes on way too long since the production is done with seating on both sides, so it's like every piece of the action has to be done twice with the company facing both ways. It's better than I'm making it sound, lively and passionately done, it kept me awake. Still, I left thinking as much on the pointlessness of my two hours in the theatre as I did on the pointlessness of war -- the majesty of the fighting arts either, for that matter.

The historic Ford's Theatre in DC has been nicely renovated, with a new lobby area that makes it much more suitable for use as an ongoing theatre and living museum instead of just a museum of the Lincoln assassination, which is still marked in his box. I went there to see Horton Foote's The Carpetbagger's Children, which I might have skipped if I'd known it was a monologue play. I don't like monologue plays. A good play play, you can feel like you're observing some version of reality. If the actors break the third wall at some point, it's an acceptable device. But to have people just talk and talk and talk like the audience isn't there but who then are they talking to is just an artificial device that in real life would be associated with mentally ill people regaling on a crowded subway train. But as monologue plays goes, this one was actually pretty good. The three actresses are telling different pieces of the same story, about a northerner and his kin living in a small Southern town after the Civil War. The actresses are very good, all veterans of the DC stage and frequent nominees or winners in DC's Helen Hayes Awards for theatre. It's a real story, and not quite just people droning on as bad monologue plays can be. I once read that acting is about listening, and I don't know if it's because the scripts are better or the actresses really really good, but there's more interaction even when silent between the actress who's telling her story at any given point and the two others that are on stage. Usually, the staging of a monologe play has no idea what to do with the other characters in the pieces, and here they actually have a purpose. Count this as a pleasant surprise, at least in this production.

I liked Tynan some, would have liked it more if I wasn't so so tired the night I saw it that I was having trouble staying awake for no particular fault of the play's. This is a one-man show which is playing at the Studio Theatre about the British critic and later writer for The New Yorker Kenneth Tynan, who long kept a diary from which this pleasantly acerb play is drawn. It's a one man show, quite nicely acted by Philip Goodwin, and I felt pleasantly educated by the experience of seeing. I do wish, as I'd said, that I'd been a little more awake, but my long day beforehand of shopping by and at the Potomac Mills, including a visit to Borders #262 in Woodbridge, my 234th visited, left me beat.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

Thank you. That episode of Glee was so slapdash I couldn't believe people had been tweeting its praises. Forced me to blog about its inevitable fall from somewhat confusing popularity.