Friday, September 26, 2008

A Good Line But It's for the Wrong Sarah

On the other side of the country, Seattle is experiencing its regional premiere of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice at the ACT. (Boston is getting the New Rep production currently.)

The Stranger leads the review with the following:

Sarah Ruhl writes fairy tales which, like all fairy tales, are light and colloquial until you run across their jarring moments of truth. The effect is akin to picking up a My Little Pony and discovering that it's anatomically correct.

A great line, but Ruhl's work has never struck me that way at all. (And I think the toy is called "My Pretty Pony."*) Thomas Garvey's comparison Sarah Ruhl's ubiquity on the regional theatre circuit and Sarah Palin's invasion of our mass media consciousness, is apt on another level as well.

To put is succinctly: (best to do that since this is not a political blog,) if Sarah Palin, the Republican Vice Presidential Nominee was exactly who the Republicans presented her as, the Democrats would have already lost the race. She isn't and so the race is still close.

On the theatrical side, like a Republican who must be seeing the downward trending poll numbers, I often find myself wishing...if only Sarah Ruhl's work succeeded in doing what her most vociferous critical supporters claim it does.

Case in point is the above quote from the Stranger. I have never found Ruhl's plays to have any such shock, and I don't feel it is in her to be truly transgressive. Sarah Ruhl is PBS transgressive, NPR trangsressive.

Yet, the Stranger line about a My Little Pony with a realistic unit would be fitting for a different Sarah: Sarah Silverman, the weirdly engaging and sometimes riotously funny comedienne/performing artist who, in an alternative universe, should probably receive a different type of Macarthur Genius Award. (Compare the aphorisms that Ruhl deploys with those of Silverman.) Perhaps some theatre company could take a chance and give Silverman a commission?

Thomas Garvey has covered much of the critical fauning of Euryidice here in Boston, but I don't think even Louise Kennedy's words-fail-me praise can compare to the Seattle Post Intelligencer's claim that Eurydice "carries the weight of a sacrament..."

Now, I have always said that I think Ruhl is very talented, and there is no doubt that people who like Eurydice, really like it. (They are genuinely moved.) However, I am starting to feel not only like the party is down the block, but that somebody gave me the wrong address and my GPS led me two towns over.

And I'd love to be at that party, I really would.

It just seems like the center section of Eurydice, (the middle 40 minutes or so,) splits audience experience down the middle. Some seem to be emotionally enthralled, while others seemed to be bored. I have yet to see the New Rep production, but I have seen Eurydice before, and what I am hearing from New Rep audiences confirms this dichotomy.

*I have been informed that it is, indeed, My Little Pony.


Rob Kozlowski said...

It actually *is* My LITTLE Pony. And, naturally, now I'm going to start work on a play called "Playtime in Ponyville."

Victory Gardens, by the way, has a production of "Eurydice" opening in Chicago next month.

Art said...

Thanks Rob, I have made the correction.

My we'll see Playtime in Ponyville at Victory Gardens in a coming season?

Thomas Garvey said...

Well, the audience I saw it with was not divided. Perhaps there were a few folks there who were deeply moved, but I heard two nice theatre ladies separately call it "awful" in the lobby, where there seemed to be a general shaking of heads. I agree the claims of Ruhl's supporters are deeply mysterious, but you have to remember that cultural illiteracy has risen among the critics, too. And they're hungry, for political reasons, for a young, female genius. I'm a little less worried about Ruhl than I was before, however - The Clean House was so superbly slick that I was concerned she might be able to pull off her impersonation of a great playwright. Mature audiences - i.e., the ones who can afford to pay for theatre - aren't going to fall for the bullshit about Eurydice, though. (That's one unexpected upside to the aging theatre audience!) She may still become a kind of twentysomething cult figure - she definitely exudes the narcissistic mindset of her generation - but as she's just not that interesting a writer, I think her star will eventually dim.

Ian Thal said...

I'd love to see what would happen if a major theatre company were to give Sarah Silverman a commission to write a full-length play. Besides being funny, and thoughtful, she can even make someone like me squirm with discomfort at times.