Friday, March 21, 2008

Something You Did

While squarely structured and formulaic, Willy Holtzman's Something You Did is nonetheless a solid no-nonsense example of an absorbing "issue" play, the kind that holds the audience in rapt attention partly because of its swift entertainment value and partly because of its topicality. The plot concerns an anti-Vietnam War domestic terrorist (Joanna Gleason) who hopes for parole after thirty years of imprisonment: the playwright makes a lot of hay contrasting America's socio-political climate then and now by pitting the inmate against an ex who has since become a right-wing celebrity. Yes, the play is as tidy as it sounds: despite some lively arguments it is always clear where the playwright stands, and the audience hissed one of the right-winger's speeches as if on cue. But I have a special respect for popular entertainment that a) has something immediately relevant on its mind and b) is made with enough skill to rally an audience around what it says. In many cases when I am invited to a show in very early previews, I'm hesitant to make definitive statements about performances that will, common-sensically, improve within a week. But at this third preview, this entire cast (which includes Adriane Lenox, Victor Slezak, Portia, and Jordan Charney) was already in excellent shape, and Joanna Gleason was extraordinary. Her line readings, one after another, are marvels of subtext.

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