Saturday, August 15, 2009

As Promised

So I read that last play last night and here’s the verdict:

Paula Vogel’s Mammary Plays: first of all, aptly named collection. both plays featured a preoccupation with their main character breasts, one with the attention they garnered and the other with their presence or absence (I’ll explain). The first was How I Learned to Drive, it was incredibly critically acclaimed and won a whole slew of awards and I can tell why: it was really good. The second, The Mineola Twins, was not as known and not as good though equally busty.

On the back cover How I Learned to Drive is described as a “delicately told tale of the sexual awakening of a young girl under the tutelage of her uncle” which is accurate and succinct but fails to capture what’s haunting about the play. Vogel paints a relationship that is inarguably characterized by pedophilia, but with such sadness and love that you want to argue it. It’s simultaneously sick and sincere and inexorable, and as a reader I found myself grappling for an explanation, for a way for it all to be alright. The characters clung to the perception that they were right and good and they hurt each other with the purest of intentions while still somehow knowing the truth. One the other side, there where staging elements I had trouble imaging (primarily because of my own limitations in that area) and of course the specter of double casting that haunts the modern theatre made itself known. The play required a Greek chorus, which could act as a literal crowd, at a dance, or the gym class showers or in the kitchen, and as a vague presence observing and judging, and from which members could be pulled to play small parts in the story. I’m sorry, but three people does not a Greek chorus make. Maybe I’d feel different seeing it but reading it made me wish we weren’t slaves to finance.

Mineola Twins was nowhere near the same level, it was billed as a political satire but the joke never quite landed and the most effective moments where the dream sequences that occupied a kind of familiar meta reality of movie moments and eerie twin connectedness. I should go back. The play is about a pair of identical twins named Myrna and Myra living their separate and connected lives from 1959 to 1989. One is chaste, then married, then republican, then a Christian talk show host, the other is a promiscuous beatnik, then a radical hippy, than a fugitive of the US government, then a lesbian. The prude is well endowed and the rebel is flat chested, thats how we’re supposed to tell them apart (except when their masquerading as each other). I don’t really know what to say about it. The characters were kind of broadly drawn, and the time gaps made many scenes feel either expository (if she chose to catch the audience up on the last ten years) or disorienting (if she didn’t).

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