The more I hear that a play is full of startling revelations, daring honesty, fearless confrontations with hard truths, the more I dread what I'll be seeing onstage. I do try to lay aside my dread, not least because I believe absolutely in reviewing the play, not the hype, but also because I always hope for a real theatrical experience in the theater. Too often, however, I find that the advance word is only building on the hyped-up contents of the play itself; the playwright, not the publicist, is the one imagining that he's shocking the bourgeoisie rather than trotting out old tropes and twists we've seen too many times before.
Her primary target is the recent Speakeasy production of Blackbird.
The article seems to careen a little too much from one thought to the other. She blames most of it on playwrights who are influenced by too much CSI and Quentin Tarantino.
I have to admit she is on solid ground with her evidence against some of the trends in recent playwriting. However, she doesn't, (it seems,) want to even touch on the suggestion that some blame in recent cases may rest at the foot of performances and/or direction. For instance, Kennedy's comments about Blackbird kept bringing me back to Thom Garvey's charge that the production seemed to dodge some of the more incendiary stuff.
Some of the plays she mentioned seem to have gathered some very positive notices from critics in many places before they arrived here in Boston. Now, that doesn't mean some of those works aren't due for some type of critical puncturing, believe me they are, but sometimes I feel that performers and directors are RELYING on that pre-show hype with which some of these shocking productions have rolled into town.
Then again, maybe that's blurring a needed examination of the craft.
Also, I am not sure Kennedy makes enough distinctions. For instance, she includes The Lieutenant of Inishmore in her affidavit, but surely Martin McDonagh's farcical freak show is meant to make us laugh, not "to shock us from bourgeoisie complacency." Don't people see it as a commentary on Tarantinoesque cinematics, rather than an emulation of them?
There is an unusually active comment thread following the article. My favorite comment, from LoutheFig:
What about "Cats"? I was shocked to learn that felines can talk, sing & dance