Saturday, April 25, 2009

big ideas in a small theatre

i don't go to plays much; i'm a movie guy.  what's nice about movies is that you don't have to be there at the moment to see it.  unless you're watching touch of evil or blade runner, what you're seeing is pretty much the same thing everyone else saw when it was released, even if it was released in japan fifty years ago (and let's all forget about the "special edition" of the lion king...).
with live theatre, it's much more of a gambit; the second night's performance will be different that opening night's, to say nothing of how a script's production is reinterpreted over the decades.

good cinema is much easier to propagate; thank you, home video and dvds.  good theatre is a little trickier; you kind of have to be there (the 1998 effort to record CATS on video didn't really work).  and i usually don't think of provo, utah, as having good theatre.  of all the plays i saw at byu, only a few were worth getting excited about, my favorite being smart, single guys (written by a student, no less).  i'd happily recommend it to you, but, i like i said, with theatre, you kind of have to be there.  when it's gone, it's gone.

amidst all these obstacles, i saw a really good play this evening.  on center street in provo is the covey theatre, and the main floor auditorium was hosting the miss utah pageant.  upstairs, in a room that was tiny even by "experimental theatre" standards, was a play called every day a little death.  i wouldn't have been there had my friend, who was starring it in, personally invited me.  that seemed to be the case for almost every one of the fifteen people there.  

two people, eight short scenes, one recurring theme: death.  the scenes followed a couple from their first date through their first few years of marriage, each time talking about death.  the writer-director's notes commented that there was no metaphorical death, no poetic death of an ideology or such.  these focused on mortality, the death of the living.  i wouldn't have noticed that decision had it not been pointed out, and i liked it.
that makes it sound morbid or grim, but it wasn't.  these were conversations about the events, the moments or years before or after.  sometimes these seemingly-mundane times can be as defining in our lives as the grand events of birth, marriage, or death.  i like that patient observation.

all of this is great in theory, but it can easily get mired in the actual production.  in that tiny little white room, everything worked.  the set consisted of a couch, a table, and two chairs.  they were rearranged between scenes to create a new environment and each scene's blocking was minimal; the actors mostly stayed in their spot for the time.
that could have been very boring.
it wasn't.

a small theatrical production about a young married couple talking about death on center street in provo: that's ripe for cheesy dialogue.  their discussions were interesting without being forced.  they weren't snappy-witty like everyone in juno, and, thankfully, they weren't trying to be.  it was genuine, not saccharine.  nor did they have screaming tirades of obscenities.  it wasn't an examination of life and death by lacerating humanity to the core.  there were no acts of infidelity, not exclamations of loathing or hatred.  it was two people working through big things and little things.  it generally seemed real, and there was enough hope underlying each situation that you believed one would catch the other when they fell.  
the acting was solid, with the couple giving a dynamic range of emotions that oscillated realistically.  while some scenes were stronger than others, most times, i would soon forget that i was watching a performance, becoming interested in listening in on their conversation and thinking along with them.

it was nice to see something different and something good.
in short, i liked it.

1 comment:

Jaime said...

on the outside, it sounds kinda boring, like you said; story of a couple. meh. but, you have intrigued me about it.