Maybe we should learn what the other person eats: three new year drama reviews

…Maybe we should learn what the other person eats. Maybe that would be the solution to some of the – If some day, we could all sit down together, at one big table, and, and, and, and… –Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris

Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
88 pages; Dramatists Play Service; December 2012

The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder
176 pages; Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1943

Blood Wedding by Federico García Lorca
84 pages; Faber & Faber; 1933

So we’re back to plays. I actually had four planned to read, but couldn’t make it through the fourth one. It was very, very long, and most of it was written in some sort of dialect, and it was just men being shouty and drunk and maudlin. So even though it was a classic, I totally gave myself permission to return it right back to the library. It’s the new year. I get to be kind to myself. I don’t have to read things that hurt. Life’s too short, jellybeans.

So let’s discuss three more plays! I was not so successful this time around. One winner. Two that did not at all do it for me. (But the winner totally won, so there’s that.)

Clybourne Park has been really highly reviewed, and has been on my shortlist to see or read for a while. It was in the Berkshires this summer, and I missed it (dammit – it was chosen as one of the top plays of the year in the paper, too.) This is one hell of a show. Act One is set in 1959, and is about a group fighting to keep African-Americans out of their neighborhood (lowers the property values, you see.) Act Two is set in 2009, stars the same actors as Act One, but in different roles (as completely different characters), and is about a group of people fighting the gentrification of the same neighborhood, which has become predominantly African-American. The writing is beautiful – hard-hitting, contemporary, and a little painful to read. There’s a side-plot about a suicide that’s heartwrenching, particularly at the end. I so, so wish I could have seen this onstage. (Apparently, one of the characters in Act One is borrowed from A Raisin in the Sun, which I also haven’t read – and now I want to read it. Total oversight on my part. I can only imagine that if I’d read it, the read of this would have been more meaningful for me.) It was an amazing read, but to see it performed must have put a whole new layer of meaning on it. Beautiful, beautiful work, and it does what I think a play should do – it makes you think, as well as entertains you. (On an unrelated note, I totally kept saying this was written by Chuck Norris while I was reading it. Then realizing my mistake and giggling. CHUCK NORRIS DOESN’T WRITE PLAYS, HE FORCES THE PLAYS TO WRITE THEMSELVES USING HIS SWEET NINJA MOVES!)

The Skin of Our Teeth. I love Our Town – one of my favorite shows of all time. (Back in the day, I played Emily’s mother. I was 18 at the time. Nowhere near old enough to play anyone’s mother. It was an odd production.) Apparently, this play’s another big deal by Wilder, so I thought, yes, I will read it! Oh, my. Well, I hate things like this, was the problem. It’s one of those satirical/farcical things (but it won a Pulitzer, so obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about) and the characters are (I think? It was way above my head, sorry, world) maybe Adam and Eve traveling through space and time and their son is Cain, and he keeps ragekilling people, and Adam keeps having an affair with one of the Sabine women, and randomly they have a daughter, and things keep happening like the Great Flood and maybe the Ice Age. I don’t know. I’m totally not intelligent enough to get this play. I’ll admit it freely. I read it – it wasn’t very long – but the whole time I was all, “Is this done yet? How about now. Is this done now?” and then when it finally was I was like, “Good, this play made me feel like an idiot.”

Finally, Blood Wedding. I’ve never read any Lorca, so I was curious. I sometimes like a passionate Spanish writer. Olé! This was fine. It was kind of predictable, and there were random song breaks. “Let’s sing the baby to sleep for ten pages with a song that marginally applies to the situation at hand!” was the theme of this play. A man falls in love with a woman (or just decided to marry her because that’s what you do and she’s pretty; it’s debatable) and his mom is all “no no! I have lost my husband and my other son to MURDER!” but whatever, she goes to the wedding, and then the bride realizes she always loved her first love (who is married with a child and another on the way) and then there are some bloody shenanigans. It’s all very Latin. Lots of weeping and wailing and beating of the breast and such. Probably quite progressive in its time, even a little shocking. My thought was “eh, I know where you’re going with this, and why do you keep singing all the time, I’d probably realize I loved my first love, too, he doesn’t sing so much and his mother isn’t around being all doomy and gloomy constantly.”

Obviously Clybourne Park wins for best of these three. None of them were TERRIBLE. I’ve read some plays in my life that made me want to carve my eyes out with a grapefruit spoon. When I was on the play selection committee at the theater sometimes people would submit plays that were so sexist or racist or filled with weird rape scenes we’d be like “WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?” These were tolerable, at least. I’d only really want to see one of them staged on purpose, but they didn’t make me want to punch children in the face with anger. (And it’s increasingly obvious I’m totally biased toward modern dramas.)

Happiest of 2014s to you all! I am starting the new year with something I don’t usually do – nonfiction! We’ll see how that goes. It caught my eye. May or may not be a good idea. I suppose we’ll know once I’ve finished it!



  1. becomingcliche

    I need to read some plays (a play?) this year. Hoping for recommendations. Maybe a play that has a video performance that is available at my library, also, so I can see the final production? Streetcar?

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