Sometimes theatre lifts you up and makes you leave inspired and joyful... sometimes the people on the stage are a cautionary tale about what 'not to do'... I had a little streak of theatre that was more the latter. So odd that it all clumped together.
The first was The Supine Cobbler presented by Maggie Tree. Excellent direction and acting, a terrific soundscape, and a really cool concept allowed for some laughter as the Western trope was played to the max in the most unusual of circumstances - the waiting room of an abortion clinic. I would have liked to have seen the concept applied to a more compelling situation as there never really seemed any obstacles to the outcome and the whole play seemed to serve more as public therapy. I left no more or less shaken in my belief that legal, safe abortions must happen but that they are not something to be rejoiced about. And there were attitudes expressed by the characters that bothered me: a trio of women laughing gleefully about 'not becoming a mother' (one twice in one year); and a defiant response to the question about using birth control, "sometimes it just isn't convenient". I personally don't judge those who've had to make that choice as I presume they have their reasons and that's good enough for me, but this play kind of made me want to...
Then I saw Gordon at Theatre Network. It's in the tradition of those films where everyone is bleeding at the end of the film and the survival of anyone past the credits is questionable. Filled with a quartet of unlikable people it was hard to really connect. Again, the production itself hit all the markers - well cast and well acted with great gory effects in a perfectly constructed half-derelict kitchen. The soundscape seemed off as it wanted us to prepare for something funnier than the play actually was. I will admit, I had trouble with the script. Lots of short cut scenes - written more like a movie than a play - which chopped up the momentum. A play like this needs to feel like an impending train-wreck and although it ends in a terrible place, complete with blood and an uncertain future, it never quite earned it. Too much lag, and not enough charm written into the characters leaving the actors with little to work with outside the ugly. I think if you are into that kind of Quentin Tarantino aesthetic, this would totally appeal to you - but I needed a little more.
Finally, there was Wish at Northern Light Theatre. This one is more complicated. Certain aspects of it were fascinating and again, like the other two shows, it was very well executed. Up to about 2/3 of the way I was completely drawn in - I liked the story of the child of deaf parents finding teaching sign to be his calling and that leading him to teaching a gorilla to sign and developing a real connection with the animal. It's tied up in animal rights and the concept of informed consent and it started several interesting thought progressions. There are many layers. It takes a truly disturbing turn, however, when the relationship between the man and the gorilla becomes physical. I couldn't handle it. I shut down in the audience. It felt like pedophilia. I could find no justification. I might have been okay with it if there was something in the play's ending that supported my feelings, but I might have been too shut down at that point to recognize it. There were more troubling things said in the talk-back but as they lived outside the play, I won't comment on what they were. However, I do know that those things said made it even harder for me to appreciate the show. It's hard for me, because there were so many well done things in this show: brilliant physicalization of the gorilla by Ainsley Hilliard; a complicated look at communication; committed acting and a beautiful looking production.
Theatre is so individual and each show does something different. They can't all make you feel happy, I get that. I have thought about all those these shows and the issues they raised several times since seeing them, so perhaps they did accomplish their goals...
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