i went and saw a play tonight, because my friends were in it. it was written by a guy who went to southwestern. i was never _friends_ with this guy, really. i mean, we traded music recommendations, but it was more a high level of friendly acquaintance than anything else.
anyways, he wrote this play. this is the third play of his i’ve seen. the first was called, if i remember correctly, “Distance”. that play was about a husband and wife who have dinner with one of the wife’s old boyfriends. it was sort of a cliche premise to begin with, but these things can go all sorts of ways if done correctly. unfortunately, the characters were all terribly unlikable – not in an intriguing way – and the woman was thinly drawn; you couldn’t really see why the men were fighting over her. the production was well-done, though, and the show was pretty polished. i definitely wouldn’t have said it was a bad show, it just didn’t quite hit the mark.
i say polished because the other two shows of his i’ve seen have come off as the sort of things that perhaps could have used some polish. a few more drafts. more rehearsal time.
play number two was called “word and thought”. from what i remember, it was a “farce” detailing the behind-the-scenes hijinks involved in producing a new play. imagine noises off, but without the comic timing. this was one of those situations where i was sitting, watching the play, occasionally laughing, but really spending more time feeling guilty because i wasn’t laughing, because my friends were up there doing their best, and i just couldn’t muster up the laughs. this is a sort of uncomfortable feeling in your stomach – the absence of desired laughs. ultimately, the play was forgettable. i’m trying to write about it now, but there was nothing remarkable about it that stands out in my mind other than it clearly meant well but, again, missed the point – a little further off the mark this time, however.
tonight’s play was called “the unbearable marketing of being”. to give you some background, the playwright is a fan of the book “the unbearable lightness of being”, playwright bertolt brecht, and the late elliott smith. (he’s also kind of a pretentious motherfucker, and tended to project the impression that he was quite above all of the rest of us mere mortals.)
the…main story of this play was, i suppose, that two guys living in austin decide that they don’t want to work shitty jobs anymore, so, accordingly, they create a fake marketing company which sells “synergies” and “free thought”. they figure that all they have to do is talk some good bullshit and someone will buy. that someone turns out to be sabine, owner of a new belgian restaurant. they’re hired to market the opening. they create a shitty commercial that involves (1) oedipus walking around zilker park (2) george w. bush doing the same, then drinking from a bottle labeled “saudi oil”. sabine rejects this commercial, saying “no politics”. the guys don’t come up with anything else, and the opening is a failure until – surprise – milan kundera, author of “the unbearable lightness of being” shows up. behind him are a bunch of people who are interested in the restaurant because it is “new”. the day is saved. and then one of the guys gets a call on his cell phone: “elliott smith is dead. he stabbed himself.” (the other characters basically ignore this. it’s not presented in any context. there’s no reason for it.)
but wait, there’s more… the play also had two other stories intertwined with this main story. the first concerned grok, inventor of the wheel, and his problems marketing his invention, because “there’s no use for it”! the second concerned a marketplace in medieval england where a man is selling a “great new invention” – the wheelbarrow – until he gets in a duel to the death with his competitor. neither of these stories had any clear relation to the main story, except that there was some sort of marketing in them.
bigger than the story problems, however, was the fact that the whole production came off more like a rehearsal about a week before the show should open, rather than the final night of a five-night run. the actors had no energy at all. sure, i laughed at some parts, but that same uncomfortable feeling in my stomach came around while watching this show.
so i’ve seen three of this guy’s shows, each one worse than the last, each one more tossed off and jumbled than the last.
i left the theatre and i thought “i can totally do better than that. why haven’t i done anything better than that in so long? i can do better.”