As a part of my freelance writing gig, I sometimes like to do performance reviews.
I went to see a show tonight, but I wish I would have done something else instead.
It was 2 one-act plays based on short stories from Chekhov. I was most interested in the second half, an adaptation of “The Fiancee” entitled “The Beyonce.”
I don’t know quite what I expected but it wasn’t what I got.
I was expecting some kind of feminist or queer critique at least. I don’t know how much of a feminist Beyonce actually is, but she gets a lot of press about it and at least “Single Ladies” affirms the fact that a woman doesn’t always need a man.
But the show didn’t really have anything to do with Beyonce or the song, except for the pun itself and a few not well executed references. Instead, the story was about a rich young woman who is going to get married and live off a trust fund and have a “normal” life. But she runs away before her wedding to pursue a PhD in Anthropology instead.
That in itself wouldn’t be terrible. But she only does it at the behest of a male bohemian friend who suggests it, and she never seems sure of what she actually wants out of her life even at the end of the story.
It feels like she traded one male figure for another, blaming her unhappiness on her circumstances instead of trying to fix anything about herself.
The bohemian friend also ends up dying, which seems to suggest the death of what his character represented – the antithesis of the rich, pampered, idle life.
Not that the character was perfect by any means, but his death seems like a plot device to make her question her choice to leave her family and a life of luxury.
This is the second Chekhov adaptation I’ve seen and I’m not sure I get it. What is it about these stories that draws people in and makes them want to explore these characters?
I don’t know anyone living off a trust fund.
What I saw on that stage feels completely alienated from my daily life.
I majored in Theatre in college, and I have to wonder, is this how most people feel when they attend a play?
Was the stuff I did in college this irrelevant? Was I naive?
Or are the plays I’m seeing now just out of touch?
Even Shakespeare was writing plays about the politics of the times, and sometimes had to force a happy ending so the King or Queen wouldn’t have him killed. But now, instead of writing our own plays about our own politics, we just do his again.
It feels like American theatre just rehashes things written decades or centuries ago. Or else monetizes the most recent book or movie hit.
I’m fine with drawing thematically from older works because history does repeat itself.
But if that is what they were trying to do in this case I don’t get the connection.
I spent all day following the #Ferguson hashtag on Twitter and then seeing a play about some rich socialite who doesn’t want to pick a color for her wedding….
I almost walked out, but I didn’t want to disrespect the actors.
There’s a part of me which still honestly believes in the value of performance.
But not like that.
I want to create work that is relevant NOW and tapped into what is actually happening in people’s lives, not re-hashing old ideas or re-telling storylines which have been told a thousand times.
I can hardly find any decent movies or television anymore, either.
Every show falls into tired tropes or the boringly inevitable heterosexual tension which dominates every other plot point ad nauseum.
Where are the stories relevant to my life, and the lives of the people I know?
It seems clear I might have to write them.