Quote of the Day: As long as you can laugh at yourself, you will never cease to be amused. Unknown
Playing on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis are two comedies that poke fun at critics, actors, playwrights, producers, and even the audience. The Critic by Richard Bringsley Sheridan, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, and The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard are both one-act comedies, running an hour each, and pair well together. The same actors play roles in both the plays. They have quite the elaborate costumes!
The whole thing is a farce. Three male critics are bemoaning the lack of good writing and reviews. The actors show up to show off, and one of the critics, Mr. Puff (played by Brit Herring for the performance that I am reviewing), prewrites his reviews, and when there was no show to review, he writes his own, in an afternoon. Mr. Dangle (John Ahlin)and Mr. Sneer (Robert Dorfman), who are highly competitive with each other and Mr. Puff, set him up to rehearse his show while they offer critique. It gets a little out of hand. At one point, the set eats the actors’ costumes.
In The Real Inspector Hound, the cast members have changed costumes and places. They added a few actors to make up the ensemble. We found that Michael Hertenstein gave a killer performance as the dead body. (Seriously, are you stiff and sore from lying there so long?) He stayed in character, nary moving a muscle, for most of the performance and never dropped a line. This tale also involves a pair of critics, and one more that is mysteriously missing, who start out the play seeming to watch us watching them. I’m reminded of Michael Frayn’s one-act, The Audience, as Birdboot (John Ahlin) crinkles his candy wrapper and noisily works his way down front and squishes in next to Moon (in our performance Brit Herring). I giggled as they recited their lines in horrible playwright speak calling attention to the details of the setting and characters in a over-stated way. Naomi Jacobson who plays Mrs. Drudge cracked me up with a nod to another of Michael Frayn’s plays, Noises Off, and the delightful housekeeper Mrs. Clackett. She overhears the line “I’ll kill him,” at various times throughout the play, followed by a dramatic pause, and the organ music playing dun, dun, dah. This show is filled with surprises, which makes for good comedy, some well placed lines, and great acting. The best laughs come from facial expressions, body language, and well constructed interactions. Comedy requires good timing.
A total of six theatre critics are represented in these two shows and all of them are male. One of them has the line, “Anyone with a pen and paper can be a critic.” Both shows are set before the internet and blogging, so we don’t get the extension of that, “Anyone with a blog can call herself a critic.” Hence, no females are on stage doing the reviewing. We’re in the actual audience. I am referring to an article written by Sophie Kerfman for Minnesota Playlist entitled Must your criticism be so male? She called us out, both the paid males who write for newspapers, and those of us who write for ourselves and our own blogs/websites. You can find more bloggers like me on our Facebook page, Twin Cities Theater Bloggers. Women are given lovely supporting roles in both these comedies.
You can judge for yourself what works and what doesn’t in these two one-act comedies by attending a performance at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, through March 27, 2016. Paying audience members can always leave comments on the various theater’s Facebook pages. The Minnesota Fringe Fest even has a place to leave comments on their website during fringe. Go ahead. Have an opinion! Share if you dare.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you see disparity between male and female involvement in the theater, both on and off the stage?