Sunday March 16, 2014 / 2:00pmCollected Stories
How was your experience?
Read the last paragraph for a shortened version, below! The Cartwright Hotel is really chic and has a wonderfully cute bar/lounge area to hang out in before and after the play. It's also located right by Union Square, so you can't beat that in terms of location! The stage was very professionally made and beautifully decorated so you don't at all feel like you're missing anything by not being in a venue that is built specifically for plays. Add to all this the complimentary wine they offered and I would pay the price for tickets regardless of what play it was that they were showing. The play itself was a bit slow, but my criticism has nothing to do with the staging or the actors, but with Donald Margulies' play itself. As hard as he tries to develop the characters through their dialogue, he ends up having to vocalize the themes he's trying to address through really blatant statements that scream to the audience, 'Hey, in case you missed it, THIS is what the play is really about.' I mean, one of the characters actually says, "That's what it's about. Don't you see? Time." I mean, yeah, we kind of see, but mostly because she tells us, not because the play effectively let's us feel that that is what drives her underlying unhappiness effectively on its own. Since the plot is moved along by nothing but an interest (that never fully develops!) in seeing how the relationship between the two characters plays out, I think the play really fails in a lot of ways. We never really get to know the characters all that deeply and, as a result, don't feel much loss at the rift that threatens to dissolve their relationship at the end of the play either. This also leads to a bit of a difficult time for the actors -- and Ruth, the mentor, in particular -- in what reactions to show in the early interactions in the play. When the play begins, we see a young Lisa fawning over her creative writing professor, Ruth, whose reactions to the young woman seem a bit confused. I think the actress playing Ruth, who was really incredible at times, probably felt a little confused as to how the "real" Ruth would respond to the praise. As a result, we can't really tell if she's uncomfortable with Lisa's praise because she finds it over-the-top, because she feels its ill-deserved or because she's awkward herself. You would think that after so many years of fame, she'd be more gracious or used to the kind of praise she's getting, but it seems to be anything but the case. In fact, she's a bit condescending. Her early discomfort/social awkwardness belies the intense focus on the loss of order her character feels as the play progresses. What the heck is she losing, if she never felt comfortable with what she had in the first place? If the play was trying to point out that she gradually makes herself vulnerable to her mentee, we fail to see it, as the dynamic between the two barely moves in terms of personal intimacy beyond a couple not very impactful experiences from their youth that they share with each other. The play finds their changing social positions responsible for the reversal of their relationship, but it's hard to feel much of an emotional connection to characters who have such superficial senses of self as to be driven by and/or disappointed by acquiring/losing a life based on fame. I think that Margulies wanted the loss to have been greater, to have been a personal one and one based on a yearning and nostalgia for youth, but -- with the exception of her love interest with Delmore Schwartz -- it's not clear what about Ruth's youth there is to mourn other than the passing of her day in the spotlight (something that I'd humbly say isn't all that worth mourning in the first place). Except for how this shortcoming in Margulies' development of the characters at times affected the actress who played Ruth's performance, I thought the acting by both women was fantastic! Summary version: My criticisms of Margulies' story aside, for the price you're paying, it's more than worth it to see the good acting, spend time in an intimate, fantastic venue that has a beautiful stage, offers complimentary wine (don't forget to tip!), and allows you to spend a day in a great part of the city. Can't wait to future productions at the Cartwright Hotel.