Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You may say I'm a dreamer

Below is my response to Catey Sullivan, a writer whom I very much respect and admire, and a Berwyn resident no less! Thanks Catey for the inspiration! I am hoping this opens up a dialogue. Those of you that have seen the play, feel free to weigh in.

You may first want to read Catey's review of The Ascension of Carlotta in the Windy City Times

IMPORTANT! If you have not seen the play yet, some secrets may be revealed below. You have been warned!

Catey,

So sad to read you didn't like our play.

Since reading American Theatre's recent issue on criticism I finally feel comfortable having a dialogue about the work I present with professionals whom I respect, such as yourself. So here I am responding to you. This is actually my first time! (And now it will be quite obvious my skill is not as a writer!!)

Romeo is an innocent. He just happens to come from a family of robbers and feels pressured to follow his destiny. But our intention is that it should be clear from the first moment that Romeo is incapable to pull off such an act and hence can't even get the unloaded squirt gun out of his pocket! He is not a robber. He is a dreamer. And a planner.

Alice Kowalski is not quiet or introverted. Instead she is simply a young woman with no dreams. No plans. Going about her life doing what she is supposed to do. Until love and possibility sweeps in and knocks her over and makes her start doing things she has never done before. She has been awakened yet turned inside out by love. Yes, it's irrational. Yes, it's messy. It's love.

So I must defend that nonsense the characters utter. It is due to them being drunk on love.

It starts out as an immature love, where one loves the FEELING of being in love more than seeing the very real human being on the other side of the sheets. But by the end, after they have both been hurt by broken dreams and confronted very real danger, they maybe begin to find a more mature love and more mature dreams. And though they are unsure of where they are headed and how they will get there, they choose to commit to the journey. Ah, a semi-happy ending. If anything, I would call it an urban fairy tale.

I chose to open our first season with The Ascension of Carlotta because to me it is about dreams and destiny and finding oneself. I am intrigued by the robbery theme too. Stealing is an act perpretrated by humans and animals alike. We have all stolen at some point. Maybe it was a piece of candy, an expensive jacket, or someone's heart, but we have all done it. (See this month's Sun Magazine Reader's Write section on "stealing.")

So I was most surprised by your analogy of the horrible incident at the Lane Bryant store. That was an act of violence where innocents were killed by a real gun by a real person. Possibly a person with no dreams. I just don't see the connection at all. No character in our play has the capacity to harm anyone, let alone end someone's life.

Thank you for opening up a dialogue on the play. It helps me articulate why I believe it's beautiful and worthy.

With much respect,
Ann Filmer

oh... a quick fact correction (can't help myself!): Though Act Two may have seemed long and over an hour, it is actually 58 minutes. Sorry to be a stickler!

1 comment:

Francine said...

Gulp. I'll chance a contribution to the blpg.

I usually (albeit sometimes reluctantly) respect Catey's comments and critiques of shows. I haven't read all of what she has written, and so bear with me here.

Some theaters often complain about Catey's reviews, but there is almost always a kernel of truth to what she writes. When I hear people whine about reviews and reviewers, I usually keep my mouth shut or murmur something about how hard the life of a deadline-stressed reviewer must be. I have great respect for all the time and energy reviewers put in, and the outright bravery they show in the face of the theater crowd.

But, are we talking about the same show here?

Did I see the same production as Catey, on the same night? Yes. Did I laugh and enjoy the play? Yes. I even went back for seconds. Did the chemistry between the characters get better the next night? Yes. But I'm thinkin' that I just didn't "see" the same play.

There isn't much music in Carlotta (baboon hoots and "Let's All Go to the Lobby" aside). And the costumes aren't lavish (though I did enjoy those underwear scenes). Music and costumes often seem to be what triggers Catey's "good" reviews. But not all shows revolve around "tunes and tights." And when has a musical had much of a plausible plotline?

Will Dunne asks that the audience suspend belief - this is an urban fairytale - as Ann notes. I too have acted out of character, and uttered real life monolgues that came out in complete paragraphs. I've been known to make those around me wince in the face of fully formed and "profound" phrases. Think of a crazed Portia rant in Julius Caesar mixed with a big dollop of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Haven't you ever let fly? I saw a bit of myself in all of the characters, though I sure don't look as good as they do in my underwear and I've never made a quick onstage costume change. I will argue that Will's script resonates with the streetwise/innocent, hopeful/despairing, and stuck-in-the-mud/dreamers in most of us.

This is not meant to be a tirade against a dedicated reviewer such as Catey. It's meant to be a vote of confidence in a theater, a playwright and a production that I enjoyed. Come see the play and decide for yourself. Or, if you've seen it, what did you think?