Saturday, June 2, 2012

Title and Deed (NYC)

I went to see Signature Theatre’s Title and Deed last week.  All I can say is WOAH!  The more I see there, the more I love that theatre…  I wonder if they are looking for artistic interns…
Anyway, this show.  I want to talk about a couple of things that really stood out to me.  One of which I rarely, if ever, talk about – plot/theme.  The other, acting.
I mostly don’t talk about plot or theme in this blog for the simple reasons that the blog is mostly for expanding my theatrical palette/tool box, to have a better definition of what I like and why I like it – ultimately, so I can reproduce what I like on stage myself, while setting aside the things I don’t like, making sure they do not reach my stage.  And with that in mind, mostly, plot and theme are incidental to that learning curve, because the things I will use may or may not be part of the same theme or plot.  In more general terms, this blog is like learning algebra.  I rarely talk about specific equations because the purpose is to learn how to manipulate the “x” when I need to, not how to manipulate this “x”.
Except in this show, one of the things that has drawn me to it so much is this show, these words, this idea, presented in this way.  Part of it is that it is, I think, a damn good script.  Part of it is because the show itself is about the universality of humanity, about how even when we’re different, we’re really the same.  And that appeals to me as both a human and a theatre practitioner – because that is, I think, one of the main purpose of theatre to remind us of that fact.  And we do it through the very universal method of story telling. 
Will Eno’s (a playwright I now want to read EVERYTHING by) show touched on ideas of “home” and “words” and the relation between the two.  It spoke of communication between people and about ideas that are larger than human speech allows for.  The writing of the show stayed with me, sparking my imagination like only good writing does – bouncing around the walls in my head painting slapdash colors of thoughts, new colors that I have never used before mixed with old colors that are familiar friends, and an occasional enemy.
One of the ideas that stayed with me the longest is: Every moment is a eulogy.  And I loved that idea.  Because it’s true, and we never think of things along those lines.  Because everything is ending before it even begins.  Every moment honors the moments that have died to create the present.  And that isn’t a pessimistic attitude.  In fact, for me, it is quiet optimistic and freeing.  Because it means that the mistakes I make are ending, as are the good things.  It means that everything changes and everything ends and everything begins again.  In yoga we use the phrase “This too shall pass”.  And it is used for everything.  I feel like this is the same idea.  Everything moves on.  And that too is human, that too is universal, that too is real and true. 
Tie great writing, and great thoughts in  with great acting, and you have a pretty great show.  Conor Lovett does not disappoint.  His gentle Irish accent reminding the audience that he is “un-homed” as it were.  Of course, the accent is faint enough that it is easy to forget that it is Irish, easy to make it an accent of somewhere that is not here – and yet, is not tied to anyone place at all. 
Moreover, and those who read this blog lots will know how I normally feel about one man shows…  I didn’t hate this one.  In fact, it was a great format for it.  His character had called a meeting, and, more importantly, Lovett was alive and aware of us on stage.  Lovett talked to me, not to the space above my head.  He made eye contact with me (and many others in the audience) responding in real time with what he saw on my face.  At no time did I feel like he forgot that any of us were there, taking his speech to both the orchestra and the balcony. 
Most importantly to me, the show, and Lovett’s performance of it, had an air of improvisation.  There were moments that I held my breath, wondering if he knew what he was going to say next or if he would lose his place in his train of thoughts.  I have never before witnessed an actor be that much in the moment.  So lost in the moment of aliveness that it seemed as if he was not speaking from a script, but instead was making it up as he went.  In short, it was what acting is supposed to be.  (Well, at least forms of realism). 
So, what did I learn?  Well, what I saw was something to strive for.  For a theatrical realism that seemed neither forced nor false.  For moments that were magic simply because they did not exist before and will not exist again.  I saw ideas presented un-pretentiously, honestly, real-ly.  I saw what I want in my own work.  A sense that I was staring at truth – not realism nor naturalism -  not even theatrical realism – but truth.  Pure and simple truth.  The human condition.  Each moment giving birth to the next as it itself passes on.  Just like a good eulogy. 

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