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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hollering "Uncle!"

We saw a double bill of live entertainment last night. Part one was a folk music group with a former theatrical partner in crime on lovely lead vocals. Veddy nice, and well worth driving to Charlotte for. I'm no music critic, but tuneful, dulcet guitar picking, sweet vocal harmonies, the occasional burst of skilled violin playing... a joy.

Part two was a performance of Uncle Vanya. I should have known what it would be, because the crew that was doing it had made a name for itself with bootleg theatrical adaptations of nerdcore movies. As a recovered Monty Python and Tarantino reciter, I'd rather have bowel movements in public than subject myself to that kind of unimaginative nerd indulgence, but Uncle Vanya, I figured, just might bring out the ambition in Charlotte's budget theatre scene. The useless theatre opiner of record in this town wrote a typically slippery review of it in which he failed to come out and say that the show was a tedious misfire, so... there we were.

Stunt casting! A duo of brilliant local improv/theatre clowns were in the show, one of them playing Uncle Vanya, both of them providing the only relief. They knew how to suss out what their parts were about and inflect their performances with rocknroll manic brilliance that served, rather than undercut, the dramatic possibilities of the text. Everyone else delivered amateur theatrics in the saddest sense. I don't blame volunteer actors, though; they all seemed to be striving to the best of their abilities for something real, and good directors can get something real out of most anyone. Inept shmuck directors, though, becalm the actors and create the kind of artless phoniness we left at intermission last night. Chekhov's words can be dazzling if the actors discover the words and the meanings as they speak it while remaining focused on what they as the characters desire. This production, though, consisted of actors declaiming with no sense of interiority, waving their arms around, engaging in cheap pratfalls that didn't grow organically from or serve the material. Imitating humanity abominably. It often seemed that the director was conducting an R&D experiment, trying to find new ways for theatre to suck. I'm sure the director would try to pitch the whole mess (in fact he did, in his self-serving program notes) as pomo subversion, or Grotowskiesque, if he'd heard of Grotowski. Bollocks. Injecting jokes and pratfalls only works if it's done with Laurel-and-Hardy virtuosity and some sense of counterpoint; some sense of how the gags can illuminate Chekhov, even if only through artfully considered contrast. It was the worst theatre I've seen in Charlotte, and I've seen a few stink bombs.

As we drove home in the dark, a possum appeared in our headlights. It was neither crossing nor dead. It was writhing on its side, streaked with red wet blood, looking miserable. I swerved to miss it; probably would have been kinder to hit it and let it sleep. If I'd had wishing powers at that moment I would have wished for the possum and the director of that evening's theatrical entertainment to change situations, so the possum would be doing what it wishes in good health and whatever company a possum desires, while the director would be ending in unalloyed terror and agony. Too harsh? Yes. But it's what I would have wished.

Edit: Greetings, friends of the director who have found my blog! Yes, my last paragraph is way too nasty, and no, I don't actively wish suffering or death on the director; that was a description of a passing fancy, not a statement of long-term position. Beyond that, hey, it's a negative review. I've gotten 'em too.


DucKButR said...

AHA! Found ya. I'll try my best to turn your - well, rather skewed vision of theatre onto the idea. I'd like to see you defecate in public personally...but you may be above that. You're on my radar sir and I intend to make sure your down the nose myopic view of theatre is exposed here and there as we keep eyes on your projects in the future.I'm sorry you feel the way you do about our group- cause the productions have been, by all accounts remarkable. Given Vanya wasn't exactly what I had intended but it was what it was with the 44 hours of work we were able to work on it with. Maybe if you took a little time to stop being a prick about it and see a greater charge here you might be able to enjoy things a bit more.

Aaron White said...

For the record, this is a bit of a confessional blog, so the really quite awful stuff at the end of this post was intended to acknowledge just how far off course my moral compass goes, rather than to wish ill on anyone. God bless us every one.

DucKButR said...

I'd buy that for a dollar.

DucKButR said...

Tell you what. Do a project with me. Show me your stones- I'm man enough to admit who and what I am when faced with it. Think you can hack it down in the trench? Join me! No need to bicker... in fact, I already have something for you. One of Two things really... Zoo Story. I'll offer you a part right now. And Pay you- we can talk about that later. OR- take the theatre everywhere challenge. What say you? Cause I can do is learn from you.

DucKButR said...

That should read- all i can do is learn from you.

DucKButR said...

followup- cause you are someone who I know I can trust.

Aaron White said...

Wow, that's a shock. You've got a lot of heart to make such an offer to me after I've been so nasty, and I commend you for it. But I've decided not to do any theatre for the foreseeable future (I've already backed out of two productions I was tentatively supposed to do, and probably damaged my standing in the Charlotte theater scene in so doing) so for now I'm not doing any shows.

FWIW I wish I'd realized, before I wrote word one, that regardless of the merits or demerits of your show, my frustration should have been directed more towards the critic, who I believe didn't offer a fine-grained description of the production: my ideal critic could very well have enjoyed the heck out f the show, yet described it in such a way that wouldn't have left me feeling mislead. Theatre is caveat emptor, and I know I've done shows that people had every reason not to like, but I've always suspected that Perry wasn't the critic for me: he gave me praise, once, that I thought should have been accompanied by some tough talk about my own shortcomings. The fact that he wrote as if I had no shortcomings to speak of made me skeptical.

Go with God. My professional acting career has fizzled before it really began, and as a result I'm a bitter, mean-spirited crank. I'm redirecting my focus and need to stay busy being positive about myself, not nasty about others.