Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Proposal

Seth Powers's disturbing The Proposal begins with a simple revival of the short Chekhovian farce of the same name. But the actor/director (Daniel Irizarry) isn't quite sure the message is getting across, and doesn't know how to simultaneously reach the older theatergoers looking to relive the peaceful past of passive theater and the younger iPod generation. The question he poses is a bloody difficult one--"Why can't theater be art?"--and it's made all the bloodier by the violence of good doctor Chekhov (Laura Butler) and the well-intentioned puerility of a thick-bearded, cookie-laden Nietzsche (Vic Peterson). Actor's search for truth twists into a dark farce, from an animalistic portrayal of the creation myth to a Gallagher-like climax, with a few breaks to dance the mazurka. Under normal conditions, such dangerous leaps in illogic would simply be dismissed as pretension, but Irizarry wrestles Powers's script to the floor by grounding everything in the intensely physical, and it's near impossible to look away.

[Note: To clarify a point, when a script tackles complex ideas in a nontraditional way, the casual theatergoer is quick to label it as "pretentious." If I were to have simply read Seth's script , I might have done the same. But this is why theater works best as a collaborative effort: I very much enjoyed The Proposal, and it illustrates the positive ways in which even pretension itself can be used to enrich the very valid critiques being made about art.]

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