In Rehearsal

So this was a production just filled with red flags for me — a solo performer dressed all in black, monologues about the magic of theatre, a psychiatrist’s couch used a framing device. And for pretty much the first half of the show, I was convinced that I was going to hate it — the subject matter couldn’t be less interesting to me — a character angsting at length about her unbearably epic relationship struggles.

The main thing that kept me there that long was her physicality. Performers often attempt to combine movement and spoken-word, and more often than not these attempts come off as awkward and contrived: not so here. It’s storytelling in which every word is carefully mapped to every gesture: and one flows into the other effortlessly. It’s not an arbitrary collection of movements, but a continuing sequence in which each phrase, physical or verbal, forms the next. It’s impressive to witness.

That said, I was still debating whether or not to walk out — when the entire performance shifted. While the first half revolved around a navel-gazing, introspective character criticizing the various men in her life, the second half was told from the point of view of the various men that she’d just described — and most importantly, she treats them with integrity. They’re not the cartoonish ciphers that the protagonist describes, but vivid characters, all defined by their own agendas.

This twist is one of the best of its kind, one that causes the audience to call into question everything that we were told in the first half — to question how much of what we’ve seen was defined by the perception of an unreliable narrator. Many of the carelessly tossed-away lines in the opening are paid off in unexpected ways, and overall this is a surprisingly well-crafted performance.

It’s still not a subject that I’m that interested in — I tend to find examining the nuances of these kinds of relationships tedious — but this show certainly gets credit for being the first one to get me to sit down and think through it multiple times.

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