Sometimes, it seems, nothing gets under my skin more than a bad couple hours at a theater, and this past week I had a doozy of an irksome experience. So much so, that I spent a good portion of act one wondering if I should just leave at intermission.
I’ve never done that — I’ve never not stayed until the end. In this case, I could’ve easily left at intermission because 1) I was seeing it alone and 2) I had no close friend in the cast that was aware of my presence. Furthermore (!) I was seated near the back of the house, on an aisle seat and I could’ve slipped out without disturbing a soul!!
I think the only thing that may have kept me there were the facts that I didn’t have to pay for my ticket because I’m an ARTshare member and that due to a parking ramp ticketing malfunction I was pretty certain I had free parking. This literally was only costing me my time. And, of course, a few brain cells in the end.
Still….I should’ve left.
I’m not going to go into all the details of why I didn’t like this show. I’m not even going to name it or anyone involved. Instead, I’ll just list the things I’ve identified as the problem and hope that I learn from this experience to never fall victim to such things.
- The direction was flat, uninspired and not nearly as creative as it wanted to be or seemed to think it was. There was an “aren’t we clever feeling” that was inorganic.
- The set design was fascinating and really cool (no, really…I liked it!)…but only for half of the play, and the director didn’t know how to use it well or to his advantage. (see #1.)
- The cast had some of the most diverse talent levels I’ve seen in a while, and by this I mean there were some miscasting situations (see # 1) and (even more frustrating) there were some brilliantly talented actors giving mediocre performances. (see #1) I think I could see in their eyes at times that they knew it, and they couldn’t overcome it.
- Why couldn’t they overcome it? Because of the lousy, ineffectual, sloppy, weak and pedestrian approach to the script and story and staging, including what I noted as unnecessary edits to the text, or a bad translation. Most of the time there seemed to be something interesting or detailed happening, but barely anything that was being created on the stage between those people was making its way across the threshold and landing on the laps of their audience. Some of them seemed to have fun, but it wasn’t being shared with us. And the pacing gave me hives. (see #1…or is this just repetitive of #1? Huh. Well, it deserves to be said twice, in either case.)
What I wanted to see, with all the talent and hard work put into this, were grounded, rooted, characters striving for something — even when, as in this case, that something was completely unattainable.
I saw a lot of striving but hardly anything grounded. I was shown the longing, but I didn’t witness longing. I saw lots of interesting attempts at being clever that either fell flat or rang out as clever for clever’s sake.
And also, I’m fairly certain that Chekhov never put the word see-you-next-tuesday in a script.
Ooops…..that may have revealed the production. Ah, well.
At least for a few hours I understood “I’m in mourning for my life.”