Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Disappointing plays are more disappointing than disappointing movies, not just because of the amount of money spent on the ticket, but because if you fall asleep, the actors can see you. Kidding. Sort of.
This was Alexi Kaye Campbell's first play, so I give him many props for that. The problem was not the writing, it was the plots. Yes, both of them. See, what this play does is move back and forth in time, from 1958 to 2008, telling not quite related stories about not quite the same people. In 1958, Philip is married to Sylvia, Oliver is Sylvia's boss, and the two men have an illicit romance. In 2008, The two men are a recently separated couple, Philip having left Oliver, and Sylvia being the best friend. As I said, an interesting conceit.
Where everything goes awry, though, is in the fact that the play becomes, almost immediately, about a message, and not about people. The reason that Next Fall was so great, and why Sam Shepard's A Lie of the Mind, which I also recently saw, is so amazing, is that they are both plays that are about only the characters in them, and no one else. Message plays are lost on me, since in the end, there is nothing to cry over, or rejoice over, or even get angry about, since they're not really finished products. They aren't whole.
It was nice to see Hugh Dancy onstage, though, after all the raves he got in Journey's End, which I completely missed. After seeing him only in movies, and only sentimental movies at that, I was pleased to see him go in a whole new direction. Ben Whishaw as Oliver was good, too, but I have to admit that I was distracted by his constant emission of spittle (I know, it happens in plays, but sometimes it gets out of control), and his near-emaciated body. Andrea Riseborough (from Happy Go Lucky, which everyone should see) does a great job in both decades, changing her accent and demeanor more than the boys have to. Adam James pops up a few times as various other characters for one scene each, and steals each one fiercely. Bless.
One comparison I will make between The Pride and Next Fall (the two plays I've put here, and also both about gay male relationships) is that there is only one kiss in each play. Terribly different kisses, but only one, which struck me as odd both times. When people are in love, they kiss. They kiss hello, goodbye, or for no special reason, just to be close to the person they love. But in Next Fall, it was only the smallest peck, and in The Pride, the kiss was violent and sad, and led to a rape scene, or not, depending who you ask. But it struck me both times; these plays about love, with hardly any physical passion shown.