by David Budbill.
The play was difficult to read. It is a word picture play based on the author's poems about a small town in Vermont. The author is also somewhat precise in what he would hope to see in a production. He wants very little set, costumes, or props. That is not much of an issue for me. As both an actor and an audience member I relish those moments of shared imagination which often develop from such minimalism. In this play, however, the author also encourages that the actors also produce all the sound effects. There are a lot of sound effects called for and some of them are quite extreme to ask a group of actors to create, the sound for instance of a welding shop or a semi passing through town. I'm sure it could be done and possibly to great effect. The problem was that as I read the play and was told each sound effect, I began to imagine a group of actors trying to make that sound. This distracted me from the text and I had to re-read sections because I forgot what was going on.
And now we come to another problem with the play. It is more of a word picture that a play. Because it was drawn from poetry, it is very language heavy in a precise way that demands more focus and imagination when reading it than more conventional plays. There is a lot language that is not the "show don't tell" kind and much is somewhat poetic in nature. I spent so much time thinking about how this show would be staged I couldn't focus on the events.
Another thing was that was no story arc. We would meet characters, hear their life stories and then move to another. Sometimes those characters would resurface and then I had to try to remember who they were and how this scene might fit into their lives as revealed by the text and it wasn't always clear. Some characters were hard to remember. It forced me to re-read things I was already re-reading for other reasons.
Frankly I found the play to be distinctly untheatrical. It was a collection of half prose poems and half lyrical poems strung together. I didn't much enjoy it. It had a documentary nature as if to say, "Lets' look at the lives of these unsung poor inhabitants of this town." but there was too much of an author's voice. Especially given that there was an author character onstage narrating much of the play. There was character named David who was a poet who had just moved to town. Annoyingly there was also a character called The Female Narrator. I kept wondering who this person was and why she lacked a character. There was an Ensemble voice which spoke mostly imagistic text. Who there were exactly was also confusing. Clearly they were stating the impressions of the David/Poet character, so they must be some kind of extension of him, but they were distracting.
Their presence was further complicated by the author's note that their line could be spoken in unison or divided up by the director as he saw fit. That made me again think mostly of how this would play on the stage technically and not the emotional or impressionistic content.
Ultimately I did not like this play because it lacked drama, events, and clear characters. It was trying very had to be something like a staged Spoon River Anthology mixed with some Our Town but it lacked the focus Spoon River and the weight of Our Town.