Melancholy Play Will Make You Sad (About the State of Plays)

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Playwright Sarah Ruhl, still in her 30s, is a favorite of the "edgy" theater companies around here. But why? Her plays are witless and obtuse, hardly worth producing, much less paying to see. Melancholy Play, one of her early works (from 2001), is on view now at Upstart Productions at The Green Zone. Yawn.

It's subtitled "A Contemporary Farce," but there's nothing farcical in it. Farce implies comedy and Melancholy Play, from its title to its characters to its morbid fascination with people turning into salted nuts (that's a big part of the plot, no lie), is a definite downer.

Like Ruhl's other works, which include Dead Man's Cell Phone, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) and Eurydice, Melancholy Play pretends to be highfalutin dramatic lit. But it ain't. It's sloppy, unpolished and absurd. With live cello playing.

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Here's the flow of what occurs onstage: A girl named Tilly (played at Upstart by the lovely Natalie Young) tells her Italian therapist, Lorenzo the Unfeeling (Brian Witkowicz), that she's sad. He falls in love with her. She tells her hairdresser (Diana Gonzalez) that she's sad. The hair lady falls in love with Tilly, too, as does the hairdresser's lesbian lover, a nurse named Joan (Lulu Ward). A tailor (Duane Deering) likewise is smitten with the depressed Tilly.

All the adoration lifts Tilly's mood. If everyone is sad, she's happy, skipping around the stage holding a red balloon. At one point, the gang plays the children's game "Duck, Duck, Goose" and some mild Sapphic cuddling ensues. There is also some screaming and singing. (The onstage cellists are Polyphonic Spree's Buffi Jacobs and Hockaday School music teacher Vilma Peguero, alternating performances.)

One of the characters turns into a salted almond, which rests on a pretty satin pillow. The characters wish they, too, were salted nuts.

And if you're at this theater for this play, you'll start fantasizing about a bowl of salted nuts sitting on a bar next to the beer you wish you were drinking at that moment.

Melancholy Play continues through February 4 at The Green Zone. Call 214-321-0121 or reserve through http://www.upstarttheater.com/.

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Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak

I am not sure which I have chuckled more over -- the play (which I saw a week ago) or this incredibly sophomoric review of it. 

Is Melancholy Play stunning, groundbreaking theatre? Heavens no. Is it a fun light-hearted satire about how people chase people they cant have, and for all the wrong reasons...and when they change, suddenly lose interest for reasons they cant understand?

Yes it is. And a whimsical take on it that had the audience I was in chuckling or laughing non stop (so apparently we are all morons).

It seems this reviewer either isnt aware of, or GRASP (more likely) the role of absurdism in theater today.

I mean really, Ms Liner, go back and map out the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream and tell me you wouldnt have found it ludicrous on the same grounds as this play had you been handed the script to read before it premiered. A magical juice from a flower poured onto a sleeping person's eyelids makes them fall in love with the first person they see upon awakening? Why that is almost as ABSURD as someone turning into an almond, isn't it?

In this silly reviewer's world, the angel appearing to Joe Pitt at the end of the first act of Angels in America would have been cause for groans.  And let's not even begin to think what she would have said about The Goat: Or Who is Sylvia? (which won the Tony Award for Best Play).

Go see the play. It is offbeat, contemporary, inventive and it will make you laugh now and then. It certainly beats sitting around reading incredibly amateurish reviews like the one above.

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