Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Race at Spoleto (or, David Mamet is Full of It)

I think I should preface the snark that follows with this: (1) It occurs to me that the only plays I've seen in Charleston have been at the College of Charleston, which is a very particular (and quite nice) theater-going experience.  When you're in the Emmett Robinson, a guy comes out before the performance and tells you that the doors will be closed until intermission.  No one comes in or out.  If you leave at intermission and don't make it back before the door closes again, you're out of luck.  (2) I really enjoyed Pure Theater's performance of Mamet's play Race.  It's just that the experience was surreal.

So Morgan and I show up at 5:30 for the 6:00 performance of Race.  We were surprised to find the theater in a strip mall next to East Bay Deli (Morgan would point out here that she felt like we were marching to our deaths, but she's prone to exaggeration).  Because we were there so early, we got to observe some great theater even before the play started:
  • the theater itself was roughly the size of my bedroom, maybe a little bigger (but not by much).  Morgan decided it used to be a check cashing place.  Whatever it was in its former life, the building now serves as a really intimate theater experience.
  • the play's director greeted people at the door, lovely and warm and inviting, in the biggest summer straw hat I've ever seen.  She seemed to be in love with this hat--she caressed it and took it off her head to look at it and showed it to other people.  When she introduced the play, she took a moment to talk about the hat.  Reading this over, it doesn't surround surreal.  But trust me, it was.
  • Everyone in the theater seemed to know to bring something to drink.  Nearly everyone had a bottle of water.  Except for those people who had cups of wine.  I kid you not.  Cups of wine.  Morgan and I spent a long time trying to figure out where this wine came from and how it was legal to carry it from wherever it came from into the theater.
  • The couple behind us were having a *horrible* vacation.  The wife was annoyed at her hotel accomodations.  She was hot.  The play started 5 minutes late.  She thought it was stupid.  And her husband had no sympathy.  I know all of this because she talked *through the entire play.*  Morgan is convinced the guy next to us texted his mistress throughout the performance.
  • The couple in front of us, competing with Morgan and me for the "Youngest People in the Room" title, were clearly early in their relationship.  She was definitely into the play and he clearly was expecting sex for his patience.
  • At one point a guy came from behind the stage with two boxes of leftover doughnuts, to toss them out.  The director told him to keep them because once they get old, they get hard and shellack and you can use them as props.  She said all of this while fondling her giant hat.
  • The same guy came out again with a ladder, climbed it and tapped on a ceiling tile a few times.  He then took the ladder backstage and returned a second time with it and a flashlight.  Under the guidance of three gentleman in the front row, he shined a light into the tile for a few minutes.  Apparently the tapping worked.
  • The bathroom was behind the stage.  Behind the stage!
The play itself was incredibly well-acted and entertaining.  Liza Dye, who received this year's African American Studies Creative Expression Award, played the female lead.  So any problem I have with it has nothing to do with the production and everything to do with the fact that David Mamet is full of shit.  It's too much to get into here, but suffice it to say this: despite what Mamet seems to think, black people don't actually hate white people and it isn't at all unreasonable for a female junior partner at a law firm to refuse to put on a red sequined dress and play "the girl" in the reenactment of a sexual assault in court.

Two more Spoleto events to go.


Liza Dye said...

very interesting. Thanks for the shout out. and thanks for coming to the show :-)


Alison said...

Okay, let's talk about the truly important issues here: how is it that you're attending Spoleto events and I didn't know about it? And who is Morgan?

Because really, this is all about me.

I do think the play experience sounds weird, and I agree that David Mamet is full of shit.