I took the opportunity to see this play last Saturday night (March 30, 2019) as part of the SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) program coordinated by PenArts.
At first I didn’t intend a review, because I don’t have much business reviewing plays. My only experience was in high school. I don’t even watch movies or TV dramas that much. But then …
What I do know something about is writing, critiquing, editing, and publishing. More importantly, I know about holding a stage. It’s hard to do without all the extras. “Drama” and “special effects” become synonymous, and so we watch movies to see the next technical trick that will be included. It’s quite easy to lose the story amongst the many things that are there to make the story interesting.
Two people on a stage talking? How can one possibly watch that for going on two hours?
Well, you start with some exquisitely written dialogue. If you don’t know how hard that is, you’ve never actually tried to construct good dialogue, words that fit the character and project what you intend to about that person. This play provides the words. This isn’t a review of the text of the play, however, but of the performance. (Donald Margulies can manage on his own!)
I was there because I know Kayla May, and I was watching her more at first. It was amazing. She took on that character and had me believing the character in minutes. I was no longer seeing Kayla May. I don’t know how you do that. I deal mostly in the printed word. This is something different.
I don’t know Kerry Sandell, so I didn’t have to forget her to see her character, but this was not a one-sided performance. Both performances were outstanding, in my opinion. This is not because I can tell you what these two ladies did. I don’t have a clue. Rather, I can describe what happened. I knew the characters, empathized with them as writers, students, teachers, and people. I could see them change and adapt.
Perhaps here some background in writing helped, but I don’t think it was necessary. They were presented so that you could come to care about the story and what happened to them, even if you didn’t empathize with the insecurities, pretensions, frustrations, and victories of writers.
I went to this play expecting to appreciate it in a polite way. “Not precisely my cup of tea,” I’d say, “but you did whatever it was well.” By the end, however, I’d have to say, “Definitely my cup of tea.”
This is the sort of thing I’m hoping for when I watch a new movie: Good characters effectively portrayed; people you care about by the end of the drama. I don’t mean that all plays should have just two characters; rather, they should have meaningful, well-developed, well-portrayed characters.
Is that too much to ask?
Perhaps. On the other hand, you might find that what’s missing on your TV screen is available in the performances supported by a local arts society. I’m going to be thinking about that from now on.