There is a new theatre company in NE Ohio named The Bang and Clatter Theatre Company, founded by Sean Derry and Sean McConaha. I believe that they are both local boys who studied and worked elsewhere and have come back to the area. They bill themselves as presenting cutting edge, modern, American (read off-Broadway style) drama/theatre. And, from our first encounter with a Bang & Clatter production, they can definitely back up that claim. They say that they are actually trying to make live theatre fun again. And also make it more "accessible" and affordable. I am very cool with all of that: $15 tickets, passing out free wine/beer at the shows, and producing "challenging", sometimes "hard-to-watch" productions. Yeah, right on, brother. Now, how about producing something really interesting and worth seeing.
The particular show we checked out was their production of Adam Rapp's Red Light Winter (see an interesting review of the NY production here). I do have to admit that like Mr. Denton from the NY Theatre review, I also found that I did not really like the play, but I must admit that It has really "stuck with me" for several days, just not necessarily in a good way. And like Denton, I found it to be raw, potent and, as Sean McConaha mentioned in his introductory remarks, "rather difficult to watch at times."
Now, here's the thing: I am NOT at all interested in seeing theatre that mainly seemed to me to shock and challenge one emotionally simply for the effect or to "shake one out of one's complacency." I think these are valid reasons for having graphic, shocking, edgy depictions on the stage (e.g. the nudity, sexual depictions, sexual violence and very course language). But, I also feel that such material should be presented in a way that serves the greater theme/message that the playwright is communicating to me. And, actually, come to think of it I think that the Bang and Clatter production of Rapp's Red Light Winter perhaps did that. But, and here is my real problem with the play, it just wasn't a very interesting or truly moving or worthwhile message/dramatic experience that Rapp's play conveyed. It just made me think, "Yeah, so what?"
I could fucking care less about 3 incredibly juvenile, fucked-up, 30-year olds caught up in come messed-up love triangle, barely on the edge of surviving. OK, yeah, that sucks, but seriously I have little compassion and pathos for anyone who acts really, really immature, makes bad choices (which, granted, they cannot see), and then treats everyone else around them (and/or themselves) like shit. Come on. A tale about three really dysfunctional 30-something people that is mainly about pointing out how fragile, insecure, and imperfect we are as human beings, AND how cruel and awful we can be to each other, is truly NOT that interesting to me.
Yes, Mr. Rapp (and Sean Derry and Sean McConaha): life is very hard, and we are often really scared, and insecure and act like children. And yes, we can be horribly cruel and cruelty IS in many, many ways the worst of all sins. And, that is something important that we need to be aware of. But, so (the fuck) what?!?! I mean seriously. I could have told you this shit too and put it a hell of a lot more succinctly:
Really, kids, be kind to one another, especially those who are or were your friends. And, even be kind to someone you spend just one night with (fucking, making love, taking or whatever). Because, it is incredibly important to be kind and gentle with each other because the others in our life, friends, lovers, acquaintances are really all we might have in this world. So, let's truly try really fucking hard to find kindness and compassion for the others around us.[...Actually, this was something that a one-time friend from this LJ of mine tried to impart to me and claimed that it was something that I failed to do much of the time...perhaps that used to be somewhat true...not sure, but I don't think it continues to be true...]
Perhaps this is a message that people need to hear/see more. I don't know. I just did not find it a very interesting one. Perhaps it is because I have already been doing my best to incorporate this very theme into my own life more actively for quite some time now (years actually). Perhaps it is because the former LJ-friend just mentioned did a lot to open my eyes to how careful one needs to be with this very issue. And, perhaps it is just because my amazing, beautiful, incredible, loving wife has taught me so much about compassion for others and being very careful about how we affect others. But, I just don't find this an interesting subject for a playwright to discuss: avec nudity or sans nudity, with or without the anal-rape scene (which really was pretty fucked up and indeed was difficult to watch).
My comments for Rapp and "the Seans": Give me something really interesting, like, some man, woman, whatever, really struggling with something like GIVING love, finding hope, changing him/herself, creating something new and beautiful in a horrible world torn to shit with war and evil and cruelty. And, don't give me people that weakly or half-assed struggle for some kind of "deliverance/redemption" without confronting their own demons in any way. Please. I have been there. I am not interested in characters who cower in their own fear and cowardice. Showing people that are simply acting like fearful animals does NOT enlighten me at all. Most of the fucking world is that way. I know. I came from a world like that. But, I gotta tell 'ya: I am not there anymore and this production is NOT going to get anyone to really see how to leave that world.
Show me something more, man. We deserve it. We deserve to see some truly brave souls on our stage, who don't just fuck and get naked and act like assholes, but who show us some small, tiny piece more of what it means to be human, and what it can mean to be human.
Still, I have high hopes for our newest theatre company in town. At least, they are trying something different. And, I am hoping that the Sean's stumble upon something a little less "Mamet-ish" in it's need to shock in order to shock and present the very darkest side of human existence.
I feel the same way about Cormac McCarthy's novel: No Country For Old Men. I just felt like saying to Rapp and Cormac,
Life is NOT entirely about a people lost and ultra-destructive, to ourselves, each other (for McCarthy, we are this way because we have abandoned Christ/G_d). There is yet hope. Please try and find some your own-damned self and write about it a little. It will make more for a much more interesting work that will communicate something that can actually change people's lives.
And that is what our art/literature/theatre should be, after all, isn't it? Something that can actually make small, sublte shifts in our psyche and change individual lives. Something that enriches, broadens and actually makes us become more human.