CAVEAT: I am producing a show in the same venue that is technically in competition with this one for an additional performance (though I do not view mine as a serious contender).
SHOW TITLE: PARIAH, or the Outcast
PRODUCER: Teatro da Bexiga
HAILING FROM: Minneapolis
SHOW DESCRIPTION: Psychological manipulation, lies, and antagonistic provocations lead two men to probe the depths of each other’s character.
I should probably state my primary prejudice here up front – I’ve never understood the impulse to produce canonized work at Fringe. As a writer, I’m typically seeking out something original or experimental. I have a deep and abiding love for Aristophanes and Shakespeare and Moliere, but that’s simply not the experience that I come to Festival for.
Beyond that, I’ve never had a deep connection with Strindberg – my admiration has always been distant. I’ve never read Paria, though I know it’s supposed to be one of the seminal texts of naturalism.
Assuming my clumsy and half-remembered background here is correct (high-school dropout, yo), this production seemed almost to be a deliberate reaction against that, as so many aspects of it were so expressionistic – it begins with a pair of men peeling masks of each other’s faces, filling out paperwork in clown-like unison.
Their delivery, also, is deeply unnatural, crisp and with excessive elocution. If either of these office workers walked into an actual office and began speaking, the natural response to them would be “Dude…what the fuck?”
(I should mention that this is almost entirely dialogue-driven, as well – this show is two men, on a stage together, exchanging dialogue. I have no problem whatsoever with pure dialogue – many of my favorite scripts rely heavily on it! But I do require – a certain lyricism, a certain tightness of composition. This text felt – strangely academic.)
I had some difficulty disentangling whether it was the text that I found so stiff and formal, or the delivery of it. This seems, essentially, to be an essay on consequences, morality, and responsibility, broken up into a pair of voices, with only the barest semblance of character behind them. I found it extraordinarily difficult to respond to.
I want to emphasize here that I don’t believe this to be the fault of either the director or performers – the style they engage is clearly the result of conscious choice, executed with remarkable assurance. The audience around me often chuckled knowingly at some of the exchanges of dialogue. This a company of remarkable competence. I look forward to seeing them interpret an author that I can muster some actual passion for.
Questions? Comments? Enraged invective? Check out my answers to occasionally asked questions in Notes on Notes, or the contact info linked from that page!