Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning to trust myself - Lemon Sky at Keen (NYC)

Ok, there will be a blog very soon (probably tomorrow) in which I talk about Sleep No More and why I wanted to start this blog - but I wanted to get out what I had thought and felt tonight... Short form of the above unwritten blog - I want to find my theatrical voice and beliefs. So, I will blog after every show I see (and sometimes in between) to talk about what I saw, and what I learned.

Tonight I went to see Lanford Wilson's "Lemon Sky" produced by Keen Company here in NYC at Theatre Row.

Some things you should know, if you don't already: Lanford was my mentor. Lemon Sky is my second favorite Lanford play (my first is Burn This).

Having said that, I will say that, for the most part, I enjoyed this production. I went to see it with two of my older, much wiser theatre friends. Afterwards, as you do, we went for drinks across the street from the theatre. One of us had seen the show in previews and then again tonight, she was most curious as to what we thought. We'll come back to the bar in just a second - but first:

Here's the thing - what I think about the script is that it is amazing. It is, I think, Lanford's most theatrical piece - the one that makes most use of being in a theatre. Furthermore, the characters in the play are living on the edge, pushing for what they want sure (or unsure in the case of Penny) of who they are and what they think they want - even if they aren't sure how to get there. Lanford was always unbelievable at creating three dimensional characters, but these were more, more real, more raw, more emotional, more, well, everything really - as if these characters had four or five dimensions instead of just the three of a "normal" writer. And the language! No where in Lanford's cannon is his own personal voice as clear as it is in Alan. Just reading the words can bring tears to my eyes because of how much the music of the words speaks in his voice.

So, now you're thinking, "Ok Reesa, so that's what you think of the script, but what about the production?"

Honestly? I think Keith Nobbs pretty close to nailed Lanford in his roll as Alan. I think Kevin Kilner did an amazing job at the arc that is Doug (and trust me, it's not an easy arc, so good job there). I think the melding of the theatrical world of the play and the "real world" of the story were amazingly done. (Again, no easy feat. Miller once described his work Death of a Salesman as being a time cake - that time was sliced like layers laying on top of each other. Lemon Sky does this to a greater extreme than Miller, because Lanford also makes use of direct audience contact and time shifts - if Death of Salesman is a layer cake, then Lemon Sky is surely a rainbow layer cake with a surprise middle).

However, part way through this production, I started thinking "Huh, I don't remember Ronnie (the step mom) as being such a push over". "Also, is Penny mentally slow in this version? I don't remember that in the script either" "Also also, the Carol in my head was WAY prettier than that. Like stop traffic gorgeous pretty - not everyday pretty."

And back to the bar with my friends. The above paragraph, not what I said. What I said was "Well, Alan did an amazing job. and the theatricality of the show was well down. Overall, I liked it." My friend said - yes, all those things are true. And I liked them too. However, I have to tell you, I didn't like the women" She then proceeded to talk about some of the above things I said.

I was both relieved and upset with myself. Relieved that I hadn't been making things up, that someone else has seen it too. Upset because once, many years ago, I was the girl who looked straight into eyes of the "scariest" professor in my university theatre department and told her I hated her show. And then proceeded to tell her why. Some of the reasons she agreed with, some she didn't. But I gained her respect that day, the day I refused to tell her what I thought she wanted to hear, and told her what I really thought.

So, what happened to that girl? The girl who knew what she thought of what she was watching - who trusted her own opinion of what she had seen to mean something to someone else too.

And I feel like tonight was a reinforcement of that lesson, that it's ok to have opinion about theatre that aren't "nice". As long as you can back them up. And that if you speak your mind, you might be surprised to find out that others agree with you.

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