And I’m living in the Bay Area, oddly enough, given my first posts on this blog. Moved for my sweetie, who I was also starting to see when I started this. Not bad, though I’m figuring out what the hell I’m doing here in terms of my work, and that’s a little harder.
But screw the personal stuff. I found Pugilist Specialist, a play by Berkely-based ensemble The Riot Group, terribly disappointing. In the play, “four marines are assigned the task of eliminating a Middle-Eastern leader. Throughout the preparation, training, and execution of the plan their conversations are recorded.” My friend Jen had seen them in London and wanted me to see them–I had been so excited–but no.
According to The Guardian, the play “brilliantly dissects the US military mentality.” Gimme a break. Rather than provide any insight into military mentality, or military mentality as a reflection of American reality, Pugilist Specialist–which undeniably had some flashy and clever writing and a couple of understated, confident performances (especially from Stephanie Viola, though I could never tell whether the constant eye-blinking was a purposeful tic or not–it did make me compulsively blink along with her)–was nothing more than an exercise of a 25-year old writing what he thought the military thinks like and speaks like.
It didn’t, in any way, ring true.
The language had no reality in it–and I’m not talking naturalism, I’m talking truth. He didn’t even exaggerate or (forgive me, I hate this world) stylize it so that the speakers’ language was more military than the military. I couldn’t imagine anyone who had ever actually been in the military not hooting with derisive laughter at this version or interpretation of their reality.
The script progressed in a surprisingly traditional temporal narrative fashion. If what we were watching was supposed to be the playback of the recording, they missed multiple opportunities for rewind and fast forward–if we’re supposed to be watching the live recording of the story, the parts of the story the omniscient narrator allows us to see doesn’t elucidate anything: no strong thematic collage, no real build-up of tension of good old fashioned 12 Angry Men.
The play’s staging, static, self-indulgent, at least remained consistent.
But never mind–all the problems, separately, point to what made the play, coming together, such an irritating bore: PS was for white liberals, by white liberals, with no (as far as I can tell) research into real people’s lives–which makes the production utterly non-radical, not activating, not progressive. Makes it easy.
Oh well. Welcome back to the Bay Area.