OT Downtown: The Worst Trends in Theater 2011

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This past year has seen some memorable moments on stage (Playwrights Horizons’ offerings; Nina Arianda on Broadway—twice!), but they all pale in comparison to the amount of wrongheaded dreck that theatergoers had inflicted upon them. As everyone gazes with holiday-glazed eyes at glasses half full, let’s look at the other half of that glass, containing these distressing trends.---

Plays by People Other than Playwrights
Few things were as painful to sit through as We Live Here and The Wood, both Off-Broadway. The former was a well-upholstered melodrama by actress Zoe Kazan that required more than a little suspension of disbelief (as well as a conscious forgetting of the tropes of Gothic literature to remain surprised by a mad sister playing the piano during a lashing rainstorm); the latter was another play from documentary filmmaker Dan Klores, a clunky affair about real-life journalist Mike McAlary that conveyed neither the excitement of a newsroom nor McAlary’s particular investigate reporting gifts.

Musicals at The York
The best thing about this year’s Road to Qatar and Tomorrow Morning was that they were both short. The worst thing was…just about everything else. Qatar aimed for dumb fun but only succeeded at being dumb, while Tomorrow Morning tried in vain for an elegiac tone that Once is currently nailing effortlessly. Neither show had anything fresh to say, and what was said wasn’t worth hearing. Not a great sign for the future of original musicals not based on movies.

Adam Rapp
The infuriating thing about Adam Rapp is that audiences know he can be capable of thrilling theater (Red Light Winter, The Metal Children). This year didn’t feature works that approached either of those, though it wasn’t for lack of trying: including The Hallway Trilogy, Manhattan saw five Adam Rapp plays in 2011, most of which featured the array of sordid frat boys and gleeful exhibitions of psychical and psychic suffering that has made his name. The final offering, Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling, was at least set in an upscale home, albeit one with a lion in the basement and a rain of geese. Is it any wonder Charles Isherwood wrote a heartfelt plea, begging to recuse himself from reviewing Rapp? Go away, Adam Rapp, so we can miss you for a while.

To read the full review of shows, head to Our Town Downtown. 

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