I really like seeing new work. It helps me think about my own work. What works, what doesn’t. Why.
I see a lot of mediocre plays that get productions for all the wrong reasons. One that shall remain nameless was a concept play. Clever title, great design, fun. No script to speak of. No heart. Was it an enjoyable evening of theatre? Yes. Was it a good play? Not on your life, despite what the WashPo said.
A week or so ago, I saw a US premiere – a show with a title I can never remember unless I look it up. “How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found” by the British writer Fin Kennedy. The play won the Arts Council John Whiting Award for New Theater Writing – the first time in a million years the prize was given for an unproduced play. And I can see why.
It’s not a perfect play. The end of Act One was one of those – is that the end of the play? The end of the act? What just happened? That could be a directing problem. And Act Two couldn’t quite measure up to Act One. But the play got inside my head and has been haunting me since I left the theatre.
It’s a little too close to home: what we all do under stress. Internal monologues about all the angry things we’re thinking and in our fantasies would do to all those damned cherry blossom tourists who jay walk at will (my fantasy, not his). It talks about what the pervasive cellphone culture says about us as a nation. And the scene where the lead character is spinning out of control while pitching to clients reminds me too well of those horrible meet and greets with non-profit folks who hold the purse strings to grants and opportunities.
In other words, it was a play that speaks truth – and a very contemporary truth.
Sometimes I feel as though our work as playwrights is old news, something that happened a while ago as the world passed us by. “How to Disappear” challenges me as a writer to write about what’s troubling me or amusing me or stimulating me RIGHT NOW.