Saturday, March 13, 2010

Multimedia Not a Panacea

Bill Marx at the Arts Fuse examines the stagecraft of three recent productions. His jumping off point is the assumption some make that the increased use of video and projection in theater production will somehow make works more relevant:

In fact, given the depressing dependence on multimedia folderol in both “The Book of Grace” by Suzan Lori-Parks and director Daniel Fish’s tricked up production of Clifford Odets’s “Paradise Lost” at the American Repertory Theater, the evidence runs in the opposite direction.

The addition of technology seems to ratchet up a compensatory dramatic hysteria, pumping up a production’s urge to float a bloated Important Message. The sweet modesty of “Stick Fly”’s comic meditation on race and class, presented in a non-videoized but well designed set, comes as a funny, perceptive, and reassuring testament to the values of the provisional, on stage and off.

Current attempts to turn the stage into a giant TV screen seem to be part of an effort to reassure theatergoers that theater can be morphed into a new-fangled CGI movie (or into a disco party, “The Donkey Show,” or into an impressive arts installation, “Sleep No More,” earlier ART productions under the new ‘show ‘em its not just theater’ leadership of Diane Paulus). The mania for the projected image wreaks havoc on the ART’s staging of “Paradise Lost,” an Odets epic that had a debilitating case of The Big Statement when it hit Broadway in 1935.

1 comment:

Bob Stachel said...

On two successive nights, I saw so-called "experimental" theatre productions that both were movie take-offs relying heavily on video projection. In both cases I felt the video was a substitute for dramatic imagination. Far from being cutting edge, it seemed a small step from the painted backdrops that were the staple of 19th century traveling theatre troupes.