I started reading plays again this week. I think I mentioned Monday that I went to the Library and picked up some recommended reading, well in the intervening days I’ve read four plays (three by Wallace Shawn and one by Paula Vogel) and I’ll probably read the last Vogel play by Monday. This of course conjures plans of Library Mondays in which this fallow period (writing wise) will be one of intellectual growth in which I’ll read five plays a week, refilling my coffer every Monday with new dramatic riches (the management apologizes for the weak metaphor). This is of course bullshit.
I’m a notorious binge reader, I’m a slow reader (bottom two percent for my IQ, mother fuckers) but when I get that reading feeling I’ll spend days doing very little else. Plays don’t even require that kind of fanatical devotion, plays are quick reads and in fact I’ve had to force myself to leave time in between plays so I could process them (albeit hardly enough time). Time is the enemy of these moods, doing other things dampens the apatite and makes it more likely that I won’t return. The point that this paragraph failed to capture is that I’ve never been a reliable reader, either I feel like reading or I don’t, I embrace it or a shun it, I don’t read thirty pages a day at the same time every day, I read two books in a long weekend and never see the sun then I don’t read for a month. The point is that to expect that my current book consumption rate will last is ludicrous.
Anyway here’s a little on what I read:
Wallace Shawn’s A Thought in Three Parts: this one was three acts written in very different styles dealing with the theme of sexual isolation (this is a big, big theme for Shawn, he’s all about people getting what they ask for but not getting what they want out of it). The first act features a couple in a hotel room having two conversations but they never both occupy the same conversation at the same time, the mundane and the imperative are discussed with equal weight and heard with equal indifference. I don’t even remember if they have sex, but their dissatisfaction which each other and themselves certainly has sexual overtones, or undertones, frankly the text and the subtext are so intertwined that it’s hard to know which is a metaphor for which.
The second is a bizarre farcical orgy taking place between five characters that manages to be both madcap and sad. The perpetual switching of partners and graphic onstage sex are a little overwhelming (in the way all farce can be on the page) but I think Shawn makes his point about detachment and the futility of desire. Also it posed a problem to the stage manager part of my brain, which has considered the challenges of blood and urine (only in abstract, thankfully), but never been faced with simulating the appearance of other bodily fluids. It would have to be simulated because what Shawn demands is physically impossible or, barring a very strange and rigorous audition process, patently un-castable.
The third act was a monologue, presumably delivered on a stage covered with the products of the previous act, which I don’t think shone to its full potential on the page. After the frantic activity that proceeded it I think the detached, image driven stream of consciousness monologue would have taken on a kind of arresting gravity but reading it it just felt a bit dead, but then perhaps that was the effect: it was delivered by a character named Mr. Frivolous.
One last fun fact about this play, then I swear I’m done, I looked at the production history of the play so I could place it historically (it premiered in ’76, big surprise) and I saw that Judy, one of the characters in the middle act was played by my very own former teacher (renowned playwright) Kathleen Tolan.
I was planning on talking about the others plays I read but I think this post is long enough. I’m sure more reviews will be forthcoming.
Please excuse the vaguely schizophrenic use of parentheticals in this post.