Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Still Life

In Alexander Dinelaris's Still Life (directed by Will Frears), brilliant photographer Carrie Ann (Sarah Paulson) hasn't taken a picture in months. Jeffrey (Frederick Weller), a trends analyst/forecaster, doesn't know how to open himself to love with a grown-up, challenging woman, but wants to. They meet, they hit it off, they get involved. Stuff happens.

There was something in Still Life, an intelligence, a desire to communicate, a thoughtfulness, that I found intriguing. However, it's hard to know how to respond to the play as a whole. The main characters are largely unlikeable. The photographer's crabbiness and nastiness are, I suspect, supposed to be sympathetic and even endearing, but they aren't. Similarly, the behavior of Terry (Mattew Rauch), Jeffrey's boss and the play's id, is supposed to be amusing and thought-provoking, but it is actually ugly and nonsensical.

From Dinelaris's playwright's note in the program, and from many of the characters' speeches, it is clear that Still Life is a play of ideas as well as a play of relationships. Many of the ideas are interesting, but their presentation as conversation doesn't work. It doesn't help that the cast has been directed to use a slightly heightened way of speaking that is terribly distancing. Only the always classy Adriane Lenox manages to come across as a sympathetic, flesh-and-blood, interesting person.

I concede that it is completely possible that I just didn't get this play. I saw a preview, and I assume that Still Life was still a work in progress. Perhaps the relationships and ideas will have been clarified by the time this review is posted. It's also possible that the play was already in its final shape but just not my cup of tea.

1 comment:

Aaron Riccio said...

Nah, I think you're right about this one. I also saw an early preview, but it seems to be two plays. There's the Matthew-Rauch-as-Jeremy-Piven show, and then there's the actual story about "art" and "dignity," which is curious at times, but far too expositional. And that closing scene is so deliberately manipulated for effect....