About Me

My photo
I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Next to Normal, and the departure of my right arm.

I saw Next to Normal on Thursday night. I don't think I have enough to say about it to write enough about it to fill an entire entry on its own, so in it falls into this unclassifiable classification. It was... good. Not, you know, life-changing or anything. I didn't shed a tear at the end, or find that place, that oh-god place that you (or maybe just I?) get to when I'm seeing something really amazing, something that reminds my why I'm in this business in the first place (and, simultaneously, why I will never be as good as I want to be). The middle parts were quite compelling, and an interesting twist, structurally and stylistically, on a typical family-dysfunction story. But the other parts - the beginning and end, that is - did not fare so well: it took too long to start and too long to finish. The end was a pretty simple, cut-and-dry issue, suffering a tad from the Lord or the Rings syndrome, in that, it had, like, seven different places it could have ended and I would have been happy, and by the time the REAL ending finally came along, I had already checked out around ending number three.

As for the beginning, it was a stickier issue, as the same structural choice which I initially saw as a flaw, eventually became one of the things I liked most about the show. The show opened with a musical number which illustrated, with very little nuance or originality, that we were about to see a show about a seemingly normal family which was, in reality, rife with dysfunction and sadness. At the end of the song, though, in a bit of a twist, we discover that the mother is actually, well, crazy. We then learn more about the nature of her dysfunction (bi-polar with bouts of delusion) and then, slowly, learn the nature and cause of those delusions. and then - and we're practically into Act II by now - we start to see the devastating effect her illness has on her family, and herself, and the shape of her struggle against it becomes clear. It's as though we first see the story in macrocosm the typical story of a happy family becomes the slightly less typical unhappy family, and in turn the typical unhappy suburban family becomes the slightly less typical family dealing with mental illness. the typical story about mental illness becomes the more personal story of this woman's delusions.... and so on. Like Russian nesting dolls, springing from one another and deepening at each turn. It was fascinated and, in retrospect, deeply cathartic to watch this deepening of the story. It was one of my favorite things about the play. But, on the other hand, it almost made me hate it at first. Because the structure travels from the general to the personal, it took me way to long to develop any active interest in any of the characters. The opening number struck me as so deeply cliched, without even having given the HINT of a chance to create characters or a story that -pardon the cliche - earned that cliche turned me off immediately. Furthermore, because the play deepened as in progressed, rather than heightened, the story started on confusingly high, almost shrill note, which left me wondering, where is there for this thing to go?

My roommate, best friend, and oftentimes colleague, whom I saw the play with, argued about it to no end. Did the risk pay off? Did it alienate the audience too much? Did it WORK? I don't know; I'm conflicted.

I took my roommate, best friend, and oftentimes colleague to see the show as a farewell evening before she leaves for Tennessee to do a regional theater gig for two months. This is her first gig out of town, her first real job, and it's great that she's going. A HUGE deal. But christ, I'm going to miss her. Already, there have been several occasions where I've wanted to share something with her and had to check myself. As in: this play looks like JUST the type of thing Sarah would love! I'll have to tell her.... no, she'll still be gone. As in: I've got to get Sarah to come in and observe this show I'm directing, I could really use her opin.... no, she's gone. WHAT am I going to do without her?

No comments:

Post a Comment