As promised, my thoughts on the plays at the Humana Festival:
Slasher! by Allison Moore
Immediate reaction (as posted to twitter): Hilarious. Script needs to be streamlined towards the end, kinda cliché but that’s the point, overall very fun.
After a bit: I think I like this piece more after being away from it for a little while. It fits within its genre very well. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to the piece, but it doesn’t need it. I tend to like my theatre a little bit heavier, but that’s my own personal taste. I’ve heard that the ending has been reworked quite a few times, but its still the weakest part of the show. If Allison figures out the right ending, the play would hold together a lot better.
Brink! by Lydia Diamond, Kristoffer Diaz, Greg Kotis, Deborah Zoe Laufer, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and Deborah Stein
Immediate reaction: I wish every show could be that much fun!
After a bit: One of the most fun shows I’ve seen, pretty much ever. There was so much energy and dedication from the cast that I couldn’t help but be sucked in and have a great time with all the performers on stage.
The play is a series of scenes about characters on the “brink” of something. Birth, bar mitzvah, going away to college, going to war, etc. My absolute most favorite moment of the Festival came during a scene of a young woman about to leave for Cincinnati to become an accountant. The twist being that she grew up with parent who were clowns in the circus. As she is about to leave, she receives a taste of what her life in Cincinnati will be like… as a 6-8 minute dance dream sequence. AMAZING.
There are about 3 scenes that are unnecessary, and I think the play would benefit from their absence. However, I’d caution any future director’s of the play: PLEASE cast an ensemble that has an unlimited amount of energy. This show requires it.
Under Construction by Charles L. Mee
Immediate reaction: All over the place. Very disconnected. Some beautiful moments, but no through-line.
After a bit: Still feel the same way. A little context: at the beginning of the show, the ensemble walks on stage and one actor addresses the audience, and tells us the idea of the play. I’m paraphrasing, but the actor basically says that, the play is a series of scenes, and at this performance they will be performing scenes 1, 24, 57, 38, etc… And that this play will constantly be under construction and over it’s lifespan will continually be so. This is much like America which is constantly under construction and always changing.
If the actor had not told me that, I wouldn’t have understood the play at all. The scenes didn’t quite fit together. I like my through-lines. I don’t always need a story, but I want to see some type of connection between scenes. I know America is eclectic, but there’s gotta be something to tie it all together.
Given that, there were many beautiful moments throughout the play, but I wasn’t invested in any of them due to the lack of a through-line.
One moment I loved: The entire ensemble is laying flat on their backs on the stage. One character sits up and says (paraphrasing heavily) “I want a divorce.” It’s a short scene between only two of the actors, but it was incredible and powerful.
Wild Blessings: A Celebration of Wendell Berry adapted for the stage by Marc Masterson and Adrien-Alice Hansel from the writing of Wendell Berry
Immediate reaction: Didn’t post one. Cause honestly, I almost fell asleep.
After a bit: The play is based on the writings of Wendell Berry as the title lets you know. It’s a series of scenes/monologues, and while they fit together thematically, I was uninterested. The language was beautiful, mind you, but it’s a play without any conflict. I was bored and it’s not really my cup of tea.
The Hard Weather Boating Party by Naomi Wallace
Immediate reaction: Has some flaws, but I very much enjoyed it.
After a bit: This one is a tough one for me. I enjoyed watching it at the time, but after spending some time away from it, the flaws have become much more apparent. The concept and circumstances of the play are interesting and it kept me engaged throughout, but the constraints of the play make some of it unbelievable. The entirety of the play takes place in a hotel room, and there are only three characters. These three characters have never met before, but they share personal information with one another and it feels a little forced. I think this information is vital to the enjoyment of the play, but if the action was taken outside of the hotel room for a bit, the story can still remain, but there would be a variety of other circumstances that could move the action forward without any of the information feeling forced.
Absalom by Zoe Kazan
Immediate reaction: Traditional, best I’ve seen so far, could’ve had a better ending, some weak characters. But I liked it.
After a bit: Still feel the same way. I liked the play, but the ending feels forced and abrupt, and a few characters need more to do. One in particular felt like a device to move the plot forward. I think some tweaking to a few of the characters and finding a more suitable ending, Absalom definitely has some potential.
Ameriville by UNIVERSES
Immediate thoughts: Without a doubt, the VERY best play of the festival.
After a bit: I think Humana, may have intentionally scheduled this performance as the last one of the weekend, because well, it was by far the most engaging, intelligent, and moving piece I saw all weekend. This piece was created by an ensemble, and their passion and dedication to what they do completely shown through in performance. If the play had been about squirrels I probably would have been engaged. It was minimal, a platform, two tables, four chairs and a projector. There are a few sections that need some work, but I’d love to see it again.
Overall, I had a fantastic time. I would much prefer seeing a new play over anything that has been previously published any day of the week. It’s refreshing to see so much new work. The entire experience of Humana has gotten me thinking about new work development, and I’ve been having quite a few discussions about it over the past week and a half. I was going to include my thoughts on that, but this post was reaching epic proportions, so I will save it for the next. I hope to have it up in a few days. However, I do have a little thing called Orestes that needs some of its own development time. More soon…