Friday, June 29, 2018


Play #134

Love/Sick by John Cariani

From the playwright who created the magical, charming, loopy little world of Almost, Maine, Love/Sick is another collection of short, related-but-unrelated vignettes about - you guessed it - love. This collection is less magical and uplifting than his previous piece, but I still found it really thoughtful and charming. All the scenes ostensibly happen on the same night, at the same time, in the same town, but they are all about different people. And we meet these different people at different stages within a relationship - from first attraction to first heartbreak to wedding day to just another day in a long marriage to exes meeting up long after their end... and other endings as well. There is still a degree of the weirdness that makes Almost, Maine so much fun, but this piece feels less optimistic. There is an inevitability to disappointment in this play, so that even as we chuckle at the "Obsessive Impulsive" characters or the wife digging around in the garage for a child's toy... and for "me," the chuckles cannot detach themselves from the melancholy present in each scene. I think that, on the surface, I don't enjoy this play as much as Almost,Maine, but there is something really wonderful and perhaps more mature about Love/Sick that I found really compelling. The scenes are clever, concise, and intelligent. And there is always a minus with a plus, a down with an up, a sick with a love. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Photograph 51

Play #133

Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler

This is a play about scientist Rosalind Franklin, whose work in crystallography helped to unlock the structure of DNA. Unfortunately, due to a combination of being a woman, not making it to publication first, and dying quite young of ovarian cancer (which was likely a byproduct of the equipment she used in imaging the genome), her name has largely been forgotten. This play feels like a cousin to Lauren Gunderson's play Silent Sky, but with one major difference: Rosalind's story is told almost entirely from the point of view of the men who surrounded her.

There is her unwilling partner, Maurice Wilkins; her assistant, Ray Gosling; a competing scientist duo of James Watson and Francis Crick; and a graduate student/love interest, Don Caspar. Science was (and still is) dominated by men, and there is even reference to the fact that, were she in America, she likely wouldn't even have access to the buildings where work like this was being done, let alone find herself leading it. But the play is structured as a memory play, and since Rosalind dies so young, all that seems to be left of her is the impressions that she made on the men around her. Franklin is a fascinating woman whose story is absolutely deserving of a play, but I never really felt much life to this particular telling. Perhaps I'm jaded by the beauty of Gunderson's play that I read so recently. There's nothing inherently wrong with this script, but there's nothing that really stands out about it either. And though Ziegler does manage to create some complexity for the woman whose memory these men regale us with, I think I would have found the play much more interesting if I felt I were seeing it from her point of view rather than from theirs. 


Play #132 - Terminating, or Lass Meine Schmerzen Nicht Verloren Sein, or Ambivalence by Tony Kushner

Terminating is a short play (with a long title) from the collection Love's Fire, in which a number of badass playwrights were assigned a Shakespearean sonnet as inspiration. Kushner's is based on Sonnet #75.

The play begins in a psychiatrist's office where Hendryk is begging his former therapist Esther to take him back, though she is firm that they have terminated their doctor patient relationship. Hendryk is a fairly neurotic man who continually asks Esther to sleep with him - despite their both being gay. In fact, both of their partners are present in the room as well (Esther's partner Dymphna and Hendryk's, Billygoat), though it's a little unclear how corporeally they are present. Are they really there? Are they simply the specters of outside relationships hovering over the pair as they dance around their troubled relationship and troubled senses of self? The epic nature of the lovers' names adds to their mystical quality within the narrative, in which they hover around the edges.

Not much really happens in this play, but as it is by Tony Kushner, the language and ideas are complex and beautiful as Hendryk wanders through his insecurities, bouncing off of Esther's stoic exterior - her ambivalence, it may seem, but I am not so sure. Though it's not action packed, there is a lot happening for and between these people and their partners as they navigate the waters of love and self love.

On a practical note, there are a couple of short scenes and monologues that could be useful, though I usually steer clear from things this raw for my acting one classes.