Sunday, August 03, 2003

Fringe - Day 2 - Part 1

The Book of Names
Bryant Lake Bowl

I liked this show. I wanted to like it more. Still, I highly recommend it.

The performers were all quite good and very committed to the reams of dialogue they had to recite. The sheer volume of talk in this play (and the fact that it remained interesting throughout) was quite an achievement, both for actors and playwright.

And what a relief to see a play that actually deals with religion and issues of faith intelligently.

Most of the time, the entertainment industry paints all those with any kind of religious belief with the same brush - religious people are two things - fanatical and stupid. If you have faith in anything, you must not have a functioning adult brain in your head. This is so dismissive and reductive that it makes me want to scream.

This play, however, for the most part, treats its characters with respect. Yes, there's the token cynic. Yes, there's the fallen believer. But the two characters who cling to their beliefs are not portrayed as simpletons who just haven't woken up and smelled the coffee yet.

These are deeply flawed people and religion, or the absence of it, isn't the root of their problems. It's a passive-aggressive extravaganza! They are all desperately trying to believe in something, most especially other people and the possibility of happiness.

The thing I think I admire most about the play, other than it's even-handedness in the above regards, is that it refuses to tie things up in a neat little package. It leaves you to think. It requires you to think.

Is it perfect? No. I'd like to sit the playwright down and talk about the fact that if they're going to give us a finely detailed story, they might want to just put the action on stage instead of continually talking about the past. It's a testament to the cast and direction that a play full of dwelling on the past rather than acting in the present is still something that gives one a feeling of forward motion.

Are the scene shifts a little clunky? Sure. But it's the Bryant Lake Bowl. And what happens when the scenes are up and running makes you forget the wait you endured for them to begin.

This is such an intimate play that I'd urge you to sit down on the main floor, even if that means you're fighting the pole or tall people's heads in front of you for a good sight line. The seats on risers will probably give you a better view, but I think the closer you are to these characters, the more you believe in them. Don't allow yourself the possibility of detachment. The play's too important for that.

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