Monday, May 3, 2010

The Play About The Baby by Edward Albee a shockeroo

I went to the theater yesterday in an effort to take a break from thinking about Arizona problems. Rosie, a woman who used to be family with her connection to my son Raymond, saw me over to the Farmer's Market and told me to come to the matinee on Sunday afternoon. She said she would be there, but was not, nor did my friend Joyce Gittoes make it, but she lives in Scottsdale now and would have to come a long ways. The theater company is iCollaborative which has been doing plays for 7 years in the back theater space at the Herberger, the theater palace in Phoenix, if we have one, in which several larger companies do their shows.
I noted that an Actor's Theater Company matinee was going on in front in the 300 something space and Sunday evening there was a pay as you can performance of The Arizona Theater's new play, "No Saguaro" in the 800 seat space. David Goldstein, the artistic director, had commissioned a Chicago company to come to Arizona and do research for this comedy about Arizona. I wondered if I could possibly make it back down that evening to see this play, too, but decided it was unlikely.
I have been concerned about Rosie after hearing she had been in an automobile accident a while back so I put top priority on seeing the Albee play rather than the Arizona Theater Company play. They just happened to fall on the same day.
I had not been going to much theater at all the last two years. For one thing, I started feeling lousier and lousier. I finally ended my vegan diet as the possible culprit, since I was getting some bad chronic fatigue symptoms.
I have begun to feel better gradually so after 3 years on that diet I have to conclude I was getting anemic. I gained weight because when you get weak with fatigue symptoms your body thinks you are not getting enough to eat and is urging you to eat more and more! In this case I was not getting enough of the right foods to eat, all right, since I am feeling better.
The only play productions I have attended in the last two years have been the Black Theatre Troupe plays because my friend Joyce would always call me to come to them and that was my incentive. She is a good inspiration to go to the theater. I have worked hard on my articles about these plays in my blog as kind of a pay for the tickets, and because I wanted to. I liked most of them that well, especially my favorite of this season, "A Lesson Before Dying" which I thought was a superior production in every way, in relevance, writing, acting and directing. I thought my friend Joyce was terrific in this play, one of the best things I have ever seen her do. I loved seeing her in the farce, too, "Stealing Away."
I thought to do the same for Rosie and this last production of the season for iCollaborative. I thought Mike Traylor did a good job of directing The Play About The Baby, so he deserves appreciation. The Edward Albee type alter ego would have been difficult to cast, but he found somebody. Even the older female companion was a good choice. I thought the problem was in the play. Edward Albee who wrote it is the famous author of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, probably his best known play, A Delicate Balance, Zoo Story, Little Alice, Tall Women, among others, and he has won 3 Pulitzer Prizes.
He was also adopted at birth and clashed with his adopted parents, especially his mother, who was trying to mold him into a successful more conventional type of guy than he turned out to be. He became a very successful playwright all right, but not in the mold she envisioned. For one thing, he is gay, and his bitter sarcasm in this play and biting gay humor was a little unsettling to me. I felt he was expressing some sort of upset with young shallow couples who have babies without regard as to whether they can take care of them. A forceful older couple comes in the play and says they have come to take the baby, which I thought might refer to the wealthy couple that adopted and raised him. There is a lot of talk about gypsies stealing the baby. Sounded sort of like stream of consciousness dialogue from the Playwright that makes this play pretty hard to like. I must admit I just sort of put up with it even though Albee is always a kick even when he's not at his scintillating best and everything is working on stage. I just thought meanings were too obscure. Not even the young couple getting naked and strolling about with no particular reason except to get our attention that I could see really helped for long. Inside information and a cult following might have been necessary to generate enthusiasm for this play. Some of Albee's plays are bound not to be done too often and this is probably one of them, deservedly so. That is going to happen to any playwright.
But I would not enjoy seeing "The Glass Menagerie" again, one of Tennessee Williams most successful plays, which the Arizona Theater Company did this winter. It was reputed to be a marvelous production, but the play would be the problem for me. I no longer have the faintest interest in seeing old Tennessee Williams plays. As far as I am concerned, he like Edward Albee had his day in the sun.
Is that any reason for us to have to keep seeing them? Who will benefit? Why do a play if the audiences are not going to be excited and enthusiastic about it? I can just take old plays up to a point and then I am done. Let's face it, most theater goers would not even know that Albee was adopted and that this play might have reflected his upset with the parents who had him and gave him up so easily. I would say that most people would see this play and think what in the hell is this all about? Just wasn't relevant enough to our times. The Albee style was just too difficult to decipher let alone like. Hell, I hate Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I think anyone who has been raised with parents who could quarrel 24 hours in a day is not going really like all the unpleasant couple conflict in that Albee play.
I was just trying to escape the immigration problem by going to the theater which by the way probably caused the comedy commissioned by David Goldstein to seem irrelevant before it was hardly out of the gate. I hope not, because at least this was a new play, even though he had to go clear to Chicago to find someone to write it that his picky audiences in the Herberger might accept. I hope "No Saguaro" wasn't bad, even though for the life of me I could not make it back down to see it at pay as you can prices.
Anyway, Albee's The Play About the Baby had his playwright strengths but not enough of them. But I don't know that I would enjoy any Albee play right now. Sorry, Rosie. But what plays should be done? Very few people are capable of doing new plays by local playwrights and making them work. But there comes a time when Tennessee Williams plays and Albee plays don't do it for me.
Finding and doing new plays by local playwrights seems about as difficult for artistic directors as securing the borders is for presidents. I think it probably takes a certain kind of artistic director. They don't grow on trees. My son Raymond is one of them. He was able to create more excitement in theater among local playwrights than anybody I have ever seen in Phoenix. I was surprised at his ability. I have ability but I don't have the stamina he did. He also had the charisma. I helped him and encouraged him to do it, which is my contribution. He is the only one who ever did my plays. He gave a number of other playwrights in Phoenix that opportunity, too, but I have to admit it was not easy and he was only able to do it twelve years before circumstances forced him into teaching, but he did some remarkable mentoring of young playwrights in that venue, too and did their work as well as more of his own.
I don't think there is another artistic director in town who could do local playwrights' work on a regular basis. There is not enough precedent for it. Not enough artistic directors want to do it. But I say if artistic directors don't do local playwrights work they will never know how exciting theater can be on many different levels. I guess I am spoiled. I just can't stand old plays. Very few of them can get me excited. My interest burns out fast. I want new plays by people I can relate to. That kind of theater is very difficult to come by.
Whether Raymond can get going doing his plays in another city is a moot point. I know he is going to try. If he gets some of his done he will help as many others as he can. That is his nature, so I can look forward to that. Maybe another play of mine will get done before I die, but I don't look for that opportunity to come in Phoenix. I am sure that could raise my excitement about theater way back up there, but it aint going to happen.
An opportunity could come in Los Angeles, by remote chance, possibly through him, which is where I went first to do theater and film. Raymond was born there and he got some great opportunities to do theater in Los Angeles when he was 13 and when he was 18. So he has theater knowledge of LA going way back.
I guess it comes down to this. I want to see new playwrights and I think it can be done outside of New York. It could be done is Los Angeles. It may be that Phoenix was a learning ground. Now Los Angeles might be the coming place!


Connie said...

Why do a play if the audiences are not going to be excited and enthusiastic about it?

cause they hope beyond hope that they DO get excited-one more time in their lifetime....

DB said...

I also wrote about Albee today. Great minds.

DB said...

Interesting dialogue on the Albee play. I liked The Sandbox. I thought it was funny..the old people and all. We might all dip back to sandboxes! Most of his work I haven't loved as it is very grim. You probably should try to see that other play!

Missie said...

Sorry I haven't been around much. I had to sort thru some blogs that I read as I had way to many to read daily. Hope you have a good week.


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