Friday, March 24, 2017

Literary triage

I mentioned in passing that I still don't cut and run with too many novels, though there were a few I bailed on in 2016 (Chaudhuri's The Immortals and Verjee's In Between Dreams in particular).  I suspect every 5 years, I will ratchet down my willingness to stick with novels that are boring me.

I have definitely started bailing on theatre more often now.  I left midway through Anouilh's version of Antigone and then The Suicide at George Brown last season.  I wish I had left during Tartuffe, though I probably wouldn't have convinced myself that leaving was the right thing to do without sitting through that totally lame ending.  Anyway, to add to this list, I found The Millennial Malcontent to be completely off-putting without a single character that I could bear to listen to.  If I could have left midway through the first act, I would have done so.  At least half of the people in my row left during intermission, and by the side door, making it clear they had no intention of returning.  I had already been primed to be disappointed, as the reviews were uniformly mediocre (here and here for a flavour), and I had been very flustered since I had to work until 7 sharp, and then ran up to Tarragon, worried that I would be late.  When I got there, I thought it was a very bad sign that they had closed off most of the upper deck seats, corralling the audience lower (which I didn't appreciate at all).  Based on the people I saw leaving at intermission, I would say roughly half the audience left at the break, which must be incredibly deflating for the actors.  It isn't really their fault they are in a flop of epic proportions.  In any case, I actively disliked the vast majority of characters, and, perhaps more damning, I really disliked the style of the play.

I am putting Erin Shields on my list of playwrights who are effectively quarantined -- I have to either read the play or see a positive review from a source I trust (basically down to the Globe and Mail and Slotkin Letter at this point unfortunately) before I see another of her plays.  She joins Norm Foster and Morris Panych.  Now it happens that I saw Hart House do a solid version of Panych's 7 Stories, and I also saw Tarragon do Sextet, which may well be his best play.  But I read through The Dishwashers and thought it was a terrible play (and generally reviews from stagings across Canada have not been kind), and I couldn't even bear to read more than a couple of pages of The Shoplifters.  (The ending was every bit as bad as I expected based on the beginning.)  Time and money are just too short to spend them on playwrights who have so deeply disappointed me.  That's why my default setting will be to skip them, and I will have to be convinced that this time around it is different.

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