Friday, August 07, 2009

How Uninteresting!

The blogosphere seems to be getting all excited that Theresa Rebeck wrote a piece defending Theresa Rebeck plays.

Actually, I think the piece she wrote in LA Times back in April in defense of plot was better and more coherent.

However, in both cases she is almost painfully unspecific. And this opaque style leads to most all of the other comments on the article being painfully unspecific as well.

After reading the two columns, I come away with a distinct feeling that Rebeck is more and more discouraged by what she is seeing at the Lark, specifically.

But really, why this dance of "there are CERTAIN plays that are theatrical, but don't cohere..."?

Just come out and say: "Sarah Ruhl and company are getting grants and, now, Broadway productions? And much of the audience I sit with, at least, doesn't like or understand their plays!"

I know, people are going to say, "Hey, you don't know that's who or what she's talking about!" My point, exactly.

And I'm not picking on Theresa, here. This goes on all the time. I've been guilty as well.

Yes, I know the danger of naming one specific example; discussions about broader trends narrow very quickly to ideological defenses of the specific subject in question. But without more guideposts, such general pronouncements can become speculative excercises.

Read how quickly the commenters on the Rebeck piece start to attempt definitions of terms. Now, you may think this is just part of the process, a healthy discussion. I would say it is a waste of time. What commenters are trying to do is figure out what the author of the post is talking about. Meanwhile, in most cases like this, the author of the post knows darn well what he or she is talking about.

If we want a true discussion, it is up to the authors of the original posts to define their terms.

Note: I do realize Rebeck mentions Conor McPhereson's Saint Nicholas in her column, but this is unhelpful. Saint Nicholas, and the work of Conor McPhereson is all about conventional story telling. The fact that so many people showed up for a play with the powerful brand of Agatha Christie, as opposed to a relatively unknown playwright's obscurely titled work, isn't too big of a mystery, right?

She also mentions Constance Congdon and Mac Wellman, but, of course, she qualifies them as "exceptional."


Thomas Garvey said...

I think you're being a little hard on Rebeck, Art. Surely she's right to simply suggest that there's not much timeless art out there that lacks craft. And surely Ruhl's not the only craft-less playwright out there. Although I think it's worth pointing out that Rebeck is almost ALL craft - much of her output seems to have no internal source, but is merely a revision of tropes from other plays ("Mauritius," "Bad Dates"). Then, again, when Ruhl exhibits craft (as in "The Clean House"), she's pretty derivative too. The trouble seems to be that when these two write "crafted" scripts, they're both copycats, just in different ways. Indeed, I wish there WERE some protean talent out there unleashing formless brilliance on the world. At least then we'd have something to work with.

Art said...

I guess my problem is that Rebeck claims that these bad bad plays are being produced!


Whenever she brings up an example of something experimental she then says it was great.

She admits that Conor McPherson's Saint Nicholas was a "thrilling" night of theatre.

Congdon and Wellman she classifies as exceptional.

Sorry, maybe I'm just not getting my point across.