Ouch. When a stage production doesn’t really work for you, who’s at fault? Are you having a bad day? Is it the play itself? Is it the production? We’ve all found ourselves at stage events where we thought—what??? This is Supposed To Be Good?? Remind me, how much did I pay for these tickets?
The Tony-award-winning Book of Mormon, was incessantly advertised as the best musical of the 21st century, after only one decade of that century had elapsed, but I didn’t even bother to review it. I found it so offensively racist and, this is a technical theater term, moronic, why bother? The problem was not the fault of the hard-working cast, but the cupidity of the original writers and producers.
This last weekend we saw a local community college production of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1932 classic tragedy, Blood Wedding, immensely popular in Spain, I’m told. The plot of the original is probably a bit simplistic and over-familiar for modern audiences. There’s a deadly feud between two families and the daughter of a third family is involved with young men on both sides. Nothing good results.
What drew me to it was the promise of dance—tango, Argentine tango, and flamenco—integrated into the production. Plus, I’d never seen the play. A bad case of too-high expectations.
My notes for the producers:
- The dancing is interesting, both the ensemble numbers and the sexy tango between the bride and her lover – good job!
- Don’t conceive of staging that is beyond the capacity of the technical staff to implement; the moving curtains were tricky and slow
- Yes, the mother of the groom bears great grudges, but let her develop a broader palette of emotions. Constant kvetching doesn’t maintain audience interest.
- Eliminate redundancy. Even Shakespeare is trimmed for modern audiences. The mother doesn’t need to describe her complaints more than twice. Respect your audience. We get it.
- Pick up the pace. Show you value the audience’s time.
Of course, I don’t know what happened in Act II with this production, because we cut our losses and went home. (Would that we had done that with Book of Mormon.) We weren’t the only ones.
This isn’t a complaint about Garcia Lorca, who wrote in and of a particular culture and time, and I’ve appreciated his House of Bernarda Alba, with Blood Wedding, part of his unfinished rural trilogy. You’ll recall that Lorca was only 38 when he was assassinated at the start of the Spanish Civil War.
Nor is my complaint about the mostly student cast, who soldiered gamely on with material so foreign to modern life, language, and ways of thinking. A number of them did fine jobs. Rather, my disappointment is with the theater director and producers who needed to shape a production enabling the whole team—cast and crew—to be part of a big success.
Does a play or musical come to mind that seriously disappointed you? How did it let you down?