My fabulous friend Jodi and my new friend Kayla came down from Milwaukee to see this show at The Charnel House. (I can’t actually make myself type the title. I had to use copy and paste just to get it in my title bar.)
Before I talk about the production, though (you can read the professionals’ reviews here and here), I must say that The Charnel House is absolutely charming. I love small, independent theatres that try new things and this experience reminded me a bit of the old days at The Writers’ Theatre – complete with the personal staff welcome asking us to turn off our cell phones and spread the word about the show. Also, the seating was set up old school with straight rows going all the way to the back. While I am not usually a fan of General Admission, in this case, it allowed me to sit far enough away that I wasn’t worried about being hit by the inevitable blood sprays.
The actors were great. My standard is whether I buy the characters and whether anything they do knocks me out of Willing Suspension of Disbelief. The only time I remember my brain being actively disengaged from the characters was in the first 10 seconds that John was on stage wearing an Incredible Hulk tie and I thought, “Dude totally took that out of his own closet.”
That does’t count.
So yeah. The script rattled my little cage, pushed my sensitive little boundries and warped my fragile little mind. And here’s what’s worse. I didn’t get out of it what most people (or those reviews, anyway) were getting out of it.
It is a non-linear piece, so I was doing more thinking than I normally do. For me, the raunchy, unnerving, edgy – fill in your own adjective for making the audience uncomfortable on purpose – was beside the point. The point was the writing process. What goes on in a writer’s head as he imagines a story?
Side Note (SPOILER): Sheila Callaghan, the playwright, has the characters conversing with/ voicing the thoughts of the writer. I am not a real writer, but I have done enough gaming to know this happens. Your characters just talk to you. They tell you what they want and how they feel and what they are going to do next. (They talk all week long until you want to scream, “Is it Friday yet?! Because I can’t stand to listen to her for one more minute!” My GM would continually remind me that I was only writing one character in the story. He had a dozen characters in his head trying to get out.)
Thus, I was all over this concept.
Anyway, there is raunchy, there is edgy, there is uncomfortable and then there is rape. Allowing for the fact that my comfort zone is closer to the side of the Puritans, I still think you’d better have a pretty good reason to use it as a storytelling tool. So I’m sitting there thinking, “Is this seriously what goes on in the imaginations of men?” Well, not necessarily. It is what one female writer determined went on in the imagination of one male writer. But does she know something I don’t know? And this is when my head exploded. Right there, in the theatre.
It’s a comedy. Mostly. And my head is exploding.
The next thing I know, we are walking to the car and I am talking five miles a minute and Jodi says, “I don’t need to figure it out. Just accept.” Just accept? Someone could do a doctoral dissertation on the merits of Jane Fonda as a muse! (English, Political Science, Gender Studies, Theatre Arts….) It is 24 hours later and this is still messing with my head. To which Jodi will say, “It’s not that serious.” And she will be correct.
Should you see this play? Yes! Then give me a call so we can argue about Jane Fonda. Victim? Sex object? Feminist? Masochist?