Friday, August 24, 2007

Violence and Aftermath

Has anyone read Michael Feingold's beautiful and brilliant essay in this week's Village Voice? This is precisely what Feingold, arguably our greatest living theatre critic, should be writing about -- and its better, even, than the kind of politics-as-theatre, theatre-as-politics screeds that Frank Rich has singlehandedly turned into a subgenre all his own. And it's certainly a lot more interesting, thoughtful, professional and instructive than Alexis Soloski's latest dubious and ill-conceived, violent slam against the New York International Fringe Festival.

Meanwhile, if you want to bear witness just how much blood, how much gore, how much life and American treasure George W. Bush has on his murderous hands, I heartily, wearily recommend that you read this article and especially visit this slideshow at the New York Times' website.

For now, I leave you with a quote from Mr. Feingold:

"We all have violent impulses. However much they may trouble us individually, they have a gratifying aspect that finds its way out when we mass together, either as imagery in entertainment or—when pushed to the edge by the urgings of extremism—in the commission of actual violent acts. However much I may dislike the violence in which certain playwrights have seemed to specialize lately (I tend to avoid their plays because the extreme gore gets on my frazzled nerves), I have to admit that its existence makes sense: A world full of violence will naturally spawn plays full of violent imagery, and it's better, surely, for the violence to appear onstage, via the sanguinary imagination of a Tracy Letts or Martin McDonagh, than to see it become all too real in the streets and schoolyards.

But the word 'imaginary' offers another of those mental irritants. I see plenty of violent acts in new plays. What I don't see, especially in recent work, is any imaginative effort to go beyond the violent act, to examine not only motives but causes and consequences, let alone solutions, of the kind that Newark is now exploring in the wake of the horrific killings there. Recently, not in a reviewable context, I saw a piece of theater, essentially a love story, in which a violent act committed on the hero's true love was repaid by his committing a violent act on somebody who had nothing to do with it. This was presented as a mark of virtue on his part, leading to a sort of happy ending in which absolutely no attempt was made to perceive the events in any larger moral context. It was simply 'You wrong me, I wrong somebody else.' Rather like the comedy of Jack Absolute, in The Rivals, striking his servant, who strikes the errand boy, who says, "I'll go downstairs and kick the cat." Only it's not funny when perceived as heroic."

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

So pleased to see your already erudite commentary on the gengeral subject of politics and theater growing ever deeper. Mr. F's glossing over of the psycholigical symbolism of violence in entertainment is forgivable in making his larger point, don't you think? After all, haven't we all gotten "angry" at a stuck peanut butter jar lid in order to summon the strength to open it? Maybe we even visualized a piece of entertainment imagery to do so... Anyway, greetings from through the looking glass.