TWO New Centerstage Reviews Up

Double feature comin’ at ya, dearest fellow travelers, and one of them is even a bona fide recommendation!

First up, God of Carnage at the Goodman. This is a smash hit show in Europe and New York, but it made my skin crawl. You can’t tear yourself away from it, sure, like the car crash other reviewers are comparing it to, but that doesn’t meant you don’t feel ill about it. Here’s an excerpt of the review:

Although American audiences view Yasmina Reza’s plays as non-stop comedies, Reza herself sees the plays as “tragedies that happen to be funny.” After seeing the Goodman Theatre production of her Tony Award-winning “God of Carnage,” I have to agree with her. This is no farce or comedy of manners; this is a tragedy of the human spirit, a cynical portrayal of people at their worst with the implication that they don’t even have a best to aspire to.

You can read the rest here.

I only get 300 words for my Centerstage reviews, so I didn’t get to flesh this out, but Sessily and I had a beer after the show and hashed over just why we found it so upsetting and unsatisfying. After we fumbled around with how to articulate what was so upsetting about the gender relations in the play, Sessily got to the heart of it: “The women were criticized for being a negative, while the men were criticized for not being a positive, which allowed the men to prove through their actions that they were, in fact, that positive.” That is, the men were allowed to be the neutral, from which they could prove they had characteristics that the women had suggested they didn’t have (like self-sufficiency), whereas the women were pre-defined as hysterical, controlling, flighty, flawed, etc., and so all they could do was operate within those limited definitions. This is true in the world at large, of course, as men are the default and women just get shoved into the well-known categories of whores, virgins, nags, seductresses, etc. But it was troubling to see Reza play into it, and it made the whole play harder to watch.

Next up, MilkMilkLemonade at Chicago Dramatists. I do recommend this play! So if you have a spare $20 and hour and a half, head on over. (It’s right off the Chicago blue line stop, which is convenient, and next to several low-key bars, which is also convenient.) The excerpt:

Pavement Group’s “MilkMilkLemonade” is all about bodies; whether our bodies define who we are, the secrets our bodies keep, the terrible way our bodies turn on us in illness. Fittingly, it’s a very physical production, with a grandma who walks like a sick chicken and a chicken who walks like The Fonz, and two boys punching, kissing and jumping their way through early adolescence.

You can read the rest of the review here.

It took me a few minutes to get into some of the wackier aspects of the show (the narrator translating the chicken’s quacks, the “ding” of the triangle when someone dropped a pun), but once I realized that this is how Emory sees the world, through a showbiz filter that makes the sadness of his life bearable, I dug it.

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2 thoughts on “TWO New Centerstage Reviews Up

  1. I’ve been thinking more about God of Carnage, and I feel like both our statements (though yours continues to be much clearer than mine) glide by an important point: it wasn’t exactly that the men were allowed to be neutral, it was that the men were allowed to establish their own identity, whereas I didn’t feel like the women ever had that opportunity. Therefore, the criticisms of the women landed harder, because they didn’t have the ability to contradict them. The same basic idea as what you said, but I feel like the discrepancy in self-definition is important enough to be focused on.

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