Friday, January 23, 2009

The Script's The Thing . . .

I know that this is a topic that's probably been gone over time and again, but I've just finished work and my mind isn't as agile as it could be right now, so instead of breaking new ground, I'm going to content myself with rehashing some good old arguments from way back.
And speaking of good old things from way back, I just went and saw the opening of Arther Miller's All My Sons over at CAT last night. I don't want to comment about the performance itself (I'll leave that to the reviewers), but I did want to mention the play (the script, the text, etc.).
It doesn't take a brainiac to say "Hey, that Arthur Miller guy - he's not half bad." That's one of the facts written in stone. (I believe it's actually written right next to: "Whoo-ee, Brecht sure had some neato ideas . . . ") So, I'm not going to point out his particular genius - just that I am constantly amazed at how well really good play writing stands the test of time.
All My Sons is, technically, a very dated piece of work. It's all post-WWII shifting ideals, and family values, and standing up for your fellow man. And it all takes place in a neighborhood where everyone plays cards together and makes their own grape juice. What?! I can't even name any of my neighbors, much less would I ever serve them juice, homemade or otherwise.
Yet, despite this handicap, I was absolutey riveted by the characters and their problems. The situations might be different, but the way they responded to them was just as true as any modern character you'd see in Hollywood, TV land, or the stage today. Better than most of those, in fact. Arthur Miller was able to touch upon the truth of human beings and their actions, regardless of what era they were set in.
I can't even count the number of plays written in the past five, ten or twenty years that are completely dated already, and frankly it's a pain to have to suffer through those performances because, really who gives a damn? But then I can watch a Chekhov play and empathize with the heartache and hardships, even if I don't understand why what the big deal about Moscow is. And has anyone written anything that so completely encompasses the blinding passion of young love since that one guy wrote Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare . . .?)?
I become so involved in a well-written story, that I'll forgive many other sins in the production value or performances. And that's the really great beauty about it, it doesn't take amazing actors or realistic scenery to bring good plays to life ( I suppose that's my add-in to the recent Richmond "what makes a good show" buzz).
So, I guess this post is really a raise of the glass to good play writing. And to companies in town (occasionally) not being blindsided by new 'edgy' works that just really aren't as good.
Kudos, CAT. You made me want to sit down and drink up some Arthur Miller. And maybe I'll just have an O'Neill chaser too.

- Kerry

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