Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Community Theatre Review

And so, last year, I went to a theatrical event that I did not much enjoy. I will not name the play or the venue so that I can liberate my tongue. However, I believe that the empty feeling it left with me may well have been the most productive thing that to ever happen to me in a theatre.

There is something positively post-apocalyptic about community theatre. That is to say, no other art form more adequately creates an impression of a world that can only vaguely remember what entertainment is. The whole experience with posits "entertainment" as a distant, past-tense thing, something long gone that can only be recalled through empty restaging. The experience is one of scavenging, with a death knell still echoing in your ears.

The actors' every gesture is in pastiche of something imprecise: dull recitation of stayed dialogue delivered between sitcom mugging ("Mugging"--the only thing they're stealing is dignity) and the varied contortions of body desperately unsure of its performance. Everything from the form of the spectacle--curtain, stage, seats--to the name of the event calls up notions of entertainment, the verbs "to entertain" or expection of "being entertained", but these ideas quickly vanish like smoke ring traces wafting away into the impossibility of what is delivered.

It is imitation so barren, so lacking cue to its source, that it forestalls any attempt at constructing even the vaguest of genealogies: Neil Simon's name may be on the programme, but one gets no sense from the play that a Neil Simon, Brooklyn, or Jewish comic tradition ever existed.

Leaving the theatre, I had the feeling of a world raised of purpose, but carrying on in spite. It was like church without God. In that instant--standing in the eeriely quiet empty wet street in distant part of town, holding half an egg salad sandwich that had been served to me from tray held by a member of cast after the show--there was the odor of pure possibility in the air: an infinite "what-now?" that in its very persistence can only amount to some kind of liberation. I was truly free.

All this comes to mind as I learned, that the same theatre is staging another production soon. Anyone interested in joining me?