Thursday, October 08, 2009

90 Minutes

Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune doesn't believe there is really any standard for the length of a play, but he muses on how many plays seem to be clocking in at that hour and a half length.

He talks about the recent premiere of Craig Wright's play, Mistakes Were Made. Apparently, Jones saw the need for some cuts that would, in fact, bring the work down to that 90 minute area:

"Mistakes Were Made" is headed to the Hartford Stage in Connecticut later this year, and I don't doubt for a moment that Wright will make those cuts. He is part of a school of American writers -- Aaron Sorkin, David Mamet and Rick Cleveland are others -- who work on one-hour HBO dramas and other top-tier TV shows. Prodded by the executives who sign their paychecks, these writers become obsessed with never boring their audience or outstaying their welcome. (In fact, I once heard the sage Cleveland tell a group of grad students that if their play were even remotely conceptual or thematic, 90 minutes was their maximum length. Period.)

I see the wisdom of that -- David Harrower's "Blackbird," the big hit of the Chicago summer, was around 90 minutes, and I heard nobody arguing it should have been longer. The tension would have dissipated. Then again, "August: Osage County" (headed back here early next year) needed every minute of its 3 hours and 15 minutes. I think audiences like marathon shows and respect their substance and demands. That's why many Chicagoans head to Stratford, Ontario, (where Gary Griffin's brilliant "West Side Story" still plays) and see six shows in three days. I do that a lot. It focuses the mind.


Mistakes Were Made will be opening at Hartford Stage at the end of October.

No comments: