Harold Pinter, who's fighting cancer, wasn't well enough to attend the revival of "The Homecoming," which opened Sunday night at the Cort. But his producer, Jeffrey Richards, phoned him in London at 4 a.m. New York time to read him the raves.
"How are you feeling?" Richards asked.
"All right. (Pause) Much better now, Jeffrey."
The 77-year-old Pinter kept tabs on the production from London, vetoing an ad that showed a pair of sexy legs under the tagline: "There are some things fathers and sons should never share."
"My play is sensual," said Pinter. "It is not vulgar."
Got to love the "(Pause.)"
Garret at Playgoer comments on the replacement tagline:
Now it reads: "Harold Pinter's Masterwork of Lust and Deception Returns to Seduce a New Generation." No need to get boring guys! Although they do get "lust" and "seduce" in there.And that "new generation" part? Pretty hopeful, eh?
But, Sir Harold, marketing is not about the actual experience, it is about the expectation of an experience.
Modernism has probably permanently positioned "themes" as the most important elements of drama, but scholars aren't the only ones buying tickets.
People don't tune into Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares because it shows that proper research and a relentless pursuit of excellence combined with discipline and focus can result in a transformative success.
Press releases and advertising from theaters rarely tell me what I can expect to happen in the theater the night I attend. Instead, they list the themes.
A typical description reads something like this:
"A heartwarming story that explores how family bonds can hide surprises, this play by an emerging young playwright looks at how our world can sometimes be smaller than we think and larger than we ever imagined."
Jeez, I can't wait!
Descriptions like these often make me think I could get the same exerience by reading a first person article in Salon.com, or maybe even by tuning into a segment of This American Life while running errands on a weekend. Worse, it makes me think I am going to see two actors on a stage just arguing and talking about things have been said a million times on talk radio, cable television and in bestselling non-fiction.
Then again, most of this output is from non-profits which are driven by their subscriber base and donations so the marketing emphasis must be placed on an overall branding of the institution itself.
While we are on the subject, I often think it would be neat to put a temporary ban on the following marketing buzz words. (They are used so much we all really know what they mean, right?)
DARK COMEDY (Unfunny.)
SEXY, (We have at least one attractive cast member, maybe even a nude or semi-nude scene, but the characters don't talk or interact like recognizable human beings in any way.)
EXPLOSIVE, (Characters suddenly start yelling in an agonized manner at about midway through the second act. Usually this is about something in the subtext that the audience figured out midway through the first act and had already gotten over by intermission.)
MAGICAL (We use warm tones and lighting and a mythical figure either shows up in a parallell universe or directly intervenes in the present day hijinks. And...guess what?! The mythical figure has a cynical sense of humor, just like us!!! And... we have puppets!)
HIP & QUIRKY (These seem to go together well and are an excellent way to describe this play that has a few funny lines but no discernible point. It was written by an young Ivy League grad who is working as a writer in Hollywood. We were promised a rewrite after the first reading but...well...our calls have been unreturned.)