Strong Direction and Its Effects
With All The Theater—How Much Is Worth It?
With all the Off Off (We Are Going To Stay Just There), many plays out shine others and for one simple reason, strong direction. A strong director is able to tighten up its cast; a play is able to thrive if it is directed well. A director's view of what the play should be can even make a badly written play look bearable. In today's theater, we see many of the Off Off (used a lot for experimental theater) trying to be avant-garde. That's not the problem, however, Off Off has always been avant-garde, the problem is that it deals too much with climate change, LGBTQ, and man issues, as in we had them.
Recently, I was able to see The Killing Of Edgar Allen Poe at the Merchants House. With little to work with as far as space, the direction, as well as sound, costumes, and lighting made this show a simple hit. The next day, I saw Ominous Men at the 14th Street Y. The direction was so bad that it made poor writing an excruciating event. The women who directed it had no reign on the actors, who themselves were terrible. LULU XX at the Connelly Theater was a clinic on sound, staging and directing. Done so well, the avant-garde show will stick with me for a very longtime. The Poor Of New York is another great production done very well at the Metropolitan Playhouse. The boards chairman directed a winner here. Its tight knit play in a small area was exciting and entertaining. While in Mid Town, Exposed might have been the best hidden gem all year. Based on a true story, the direction in this play hit it out of the park. A few doors down, The Tallest Man in the World was in the same league as Ominous Men. The play was clueless, misdirected and it was unfortunate because the writing here was not that bad.
Today, Off Off Broadway is based on showcases, three week shows that find the theater goer to really having to choose carefully what their interests are. Even if a person, for instance, is into climate change, seeing Extreme Weather would be a huge mistake. This play came out of left field and was boring and misdirected. If you're into women's issues seeing All the Women Who Thought They Were Mad by Zawe Ashton did little to bring any light on women's issues. Even the show's good direction could not help this lemon. Many of these showcases are a writers long time dream to write a play and many of these shows get written, rewritten and fused with until they become watered down. Since New York has many more theater's today than in the 80s, shows get pushed out without a lot of scrutiny as to how good they are. Theater Companies can rent a theater and put their works in it. The theater for the New City is a perfect example. After recently seeing Singing in the ER, I became convinced that this theater will produce anything down there no matter how bad the body of work is. Getting Government grants, many of these theaters could care less as to what comes out of them. The same can be said for La Mama. Once a power house, a lot of garbage comes of this house as of late.
While NYTW continues to put plays on Broadway, as does the Public, many of the old staples have become to immersed in the political aspect of the theater. Whereas in the 80s, both the East and West Village would produce more plays on the absurd. The Ridiculous Theater Company had a big following and put out many, many good shows. Little Shop of Horrors reigned at the Orpheum at that time as well. Politics was put in the absurd; today, politics is at the forefront, many times it is just hate driven and not well written. Theater should be inspiring, the audience needs to be entertained and not dictated to. Avant-garde is cutting edge, not served with a dull knife. In choosing a play, the bylines or a quick synopsis is not always a surefire winner that a play will be good. It helps to recognize a writer and or a director that you like and try to see what they put on. Many writers and directors are "posers," not really good at their craft and just willing to put out something, anything for recognitions sake.
About the author
I have been writing on theater since 1982. A graduate from Manhattan College B.S. A member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both English and Science. I have produced 12 shows on and off Broadway. I've seen over700 shows