This is James Taylor with Theatre Talk.
Age discrimination used to be a problem for the young. Experience, stability, and maturity--these were qualities that mattered. Now days, it seems, age discrimination works the opposite way. Experience, stability, maturity--these qualities now are viewed with some suspicion, whereas as qualities like "untested;," "fresh;," "hip;," and, of course, "cheap;," are all the rage.
Theater is no exception to this--and to be fair, this show likes nothing more than to champion a new work or new vision by a young playwright or director. And likewise, this show feels an obligation to call out work when it feels old, tired, or undemanding of its audience.
So imagine the following image: it's the first act of a new play by a young playwright--a very young playwright (age 26 to be precise)--at a conservative, mainstream theatre in Orange County. Not the place where you expect a shocking, avant-garde that will alienate the audience--but sure enough, there were people leaving, before intermission had even rolled around.
Now, achieving walkouts in Orange County could be considered a sort of badge of honor for a young artist--and certainly it seems to be the modus operandi for this particular playwright. This is Noah Haidle's second play at South Coast Rep to inspire people to lave their seats in the middle of the show.
But one older woman in the audience of Haidle's new play did not leave, despite the fleeing of many other older audience members around her. No, this woman, who looked to be in her seventies, sat there for the entire first act of Haidle's new play Princess Marjorie. Unlike her fellow septuagenarians and octogenarians, this woman persevered and stayed in her seat and watched the play, with both of her fingers planted firmly in her ears.
Haidle's juvenile, shock-filled play clearly wanted to inspire walkouts, but this one woman brilliantly foiled the playwright's intentions. Indeed, much of the dialogue in Princess Marjorie is coarse, which is probably what the woman was responding too; but frankly, what the characters were saying was not worth hearing.
It's a shame, because the idea at the core of Princess Marjorie is an interesting one. The play is ostensibly about the fading of beauty and the danger of expectations--but sadly these concepts are never flushed out in any dramatic or comedic way. Instead, Princess Marjorie feels like a five-minute Saturday Night Live sketch that has been stretched to two acts and two hours--two hours too long.
The old woman with her fingers in her ears was gone after intermission--which was the first reminder of that week that you should follow the example of your elders. The second reminder came later in the week, when REDCAT hosted an informal dramatic reading led by Andre Gregory.
Mr. Gregory is most popular for being the titular Andre in the beloved art film My Dinner With Andre...but Gregory is first and foremost a man of the theater. Long before Noah Haidle was even born, Gregory was offending audiences and getting kicked out of theater companies.
Even as he gets older, Gregory still confounds theatrical expectations. He was supposed to stage his version of Beckett's Endgame at REDCAT, but instead showed up with two friends, Larry Pine and Julie Haggerty, and simply read from the script of a new play.
It was the type of thing that should have infuriated audience members who had paid good money to see Endgame-and at first the casual nature of the evening did seem an affront to the paying crowd. But soon it became clear that Gregory's interruptions and digressions were part of the evening and part of the theatrical experience.
By then end of the short, hour-long work, everyone was riveted--and no one wanted the evening to end. Anyone can make an audience leave in disgust--or close it ears in protest--it's the true provocateur who can make people curious enough to stick around.
This is James Taylor with Theatre Talk for KCRW.