Monday, February 15, 2010

New Review Posted: Wilson Wants It All

One last review from my insane month of theatregoing. (From January 13th to February 10th, I saw twelve productions. Some more thoughts on that are to come.) Here's the House's Wilson Wants It All, a fascinating show. I didn't love it, and certainly recognized its flaws, but they didn't bother me as much as they did some other commentators, like Don and Monica. Ah well. Mostly worth a trip, in my estimation, particularly for those with a fondness for political futuristic satire and dynamic stagings. Those with no tolerance for plot holes or clunky dialogue, not so much. And I promise some thought pieces and other blogging soon. I am, as always, higher on opinions than on initiative.

Here's the text:

Popular politicians are often compared to blank screens - full of charisma, but just vague enough on policy that people of widely varied political opinions can see whatever they want in them. Michael Rohd and Phillip C. Klapperich have taken this concept to provocative and often thrilling places in "Wilson Wants It All," and while it's hardly flawless, it gives plenty of food for thought and experience.

In 2010 an idealistic young Senator and his wife were assassinated, not long before he intended to announce his candidacy for the presidency. Luckily his chief of staff, Wilson (John Henry Roberts) rescued the daughter his wife was about to have, naming her Hope and training her to take up her father's mantle. Thirty years passed, and American political culture devolved, in frighteningly plausible ways. Hope (Rebekah Ward-Hayes) is now 30, and said to be on the verge of announcing her candidacy for her father's seat. But she's chafing against Wilson's obsessive management of her life, and has no idea that her fate is about to intersect with that of Ruth (Leslie Frame), who is the same age and looks remarkably similar.

Rohd, who directed, conceived and co-wrote, and Klapperich, who co-wrote, have created a remarkably coherent and persuasive world. It's easy to imagine us living in this fragmented, gridlocked society, and desperate for something to make it better, whether or not we truly understand what it is. And Rohd staging is exquisite: on Collette Pollard's set, made entirely from projection screens, he blocks his excellent cast in consistently fascinating ways.

Unfortunately, the script doesn't use this excellent setup to the fullest; the dialogue is often unsubtle and some of the plot twists strain believability. By the end there is a distinct sense of being told the same thing over and over. But there's still a lot to be said for a thrillingly staged, cautionary look into our own futures.


Anonymous said...

At least Monica Reida gives honest reviews and actually does some reporting and thinking about theater.

Zev Valancy said...

I'm proud to call Monica a friend and a colleague. We happen to disagree on this show (and I totally see her problems with the show, I just am not as bothered by them), but I would disagree that this makes my reviews dishonest, or my posts devoid of reporting and thought.

But if you have any specific constructive criticisms, I'd love to hear them.

Anonymous said...

An important question here is why did those problems, which she laid out clearly in her review, bother her more than you? Of course, it could mean that she felt as though those problems bogged down the script, while you didn't see that of the show.

In terms of reporting, she reported on the Alcyone Festival and wrote it in a traditional journalistic form, seen here, as well as on a lecture on public housing. She asks questions about how to get theatre to people in impoverished areas and writes about the practical applications of social networking for theater. (Which, yes, I see how that would work better than a brunch.) I haven't seen anything like that on your blog, Mr. Valancy.

Zev Valancy said...

The problems bothered me less because I was taken in by the play's staging and ideas, and enjoyed the performances. So while I noted the parts of the plot that didn't make sense, they didn't detract as much from my enjoyment. People can have different impressions of the same performance (we were both at opening) without one view being more valid than another. After all, we are different people.

I'm sorry if the content of the blog isn't what you'd wish. It's based on my own interests, as well as the time and energy I have. (And particularly in the past month, with my various commitments to criticism, dramaturgy, and my day job, those have been limited.) Additionally, my work and training is as a critic, not a reporter, so most of my work will be criticism and opinion pieces, rather than reporting.

Still, I'm always trying to improve my blog, and certainly hope to have a variety of quality stories here. Thanks for reading. (Though I'd prefer future comments have a name attached--it's rather disconcerting to be called out anonymously.)

Anonymous said...

So, basically, you have a job and are a critic and a dramaturg and therefore you can only link to your reviews and when the New York Times decides to answer a question you submitted. Yet the other theater bloggers in Chicago, except for Monica Reida, have day jobs and they're directors, teachers, playwrights, sound designers. Really, the only person that has an excuse for not having anything more is Kris Vire, and he has more content than just links to recent pieces. (Which I don't think he needs to do.)

Basically what I'm saying is that maybe if this was more than just links to reviews and posts about stuff that annoys you, it would be a better blog.


mpjedi2 said...

Dear Mr. Anonymous...

What are you taking task with, anyway? That he disagreed with Ms. Reida? That he hasn't used this blog as a platform for the political/social issues important to you? That he was excited that the New York Times answered his question? That's his right, and he doesn't have to answer to you for it.

A blog is a work of personal documentation, and not subject to any editorial constraints but the author's own. that's what a blog is. (I'm sure Ms. Reida could explain that to you) So, therefore, if you don't like the material he posts, don't read it.

Or, here's an idea...WRITE YOUR OWN BLOG, and you can write about anything you damn well like.

Elana Elyce said...

Hiya Mark!! I did Martian Chronicles with you! Thanks for responding to Rhys with exactly what I was thinking... It's not like Valancy criticized Monica-I was reading Anonymous so completely confused. It just seems like a random attack. I wasn't gonna say anything, but since you voiced my thoughts...well, mostly I just wanted to say hi to you. As for Rhys...I don't know in what capacity ANYONE doesn't have a right to their OWN opinion, whatever the matter.