New York: Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them

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Why Torture Is Wrong and The People Who Love Them by Christopher Durang at the Public Theater

My evening with Christopher Durang started on a happy note: I scored the last rush ticket after tearing up from Washington, ditching my bags at the apartment and sprinting across town to get there.

It turns out that that rush ticket saved me more than $50. It saved me the pain of regretting spending an extra $50 to see what is, let’s be honest, a wildly uneven offering. David Mamet got away with bringing November to Broadway last year just on the strength of his name, and Durang’s following suit.

I can’t blame him. If I were famous and could get anything I doodled on a napkin published and produced, who’s to say I wouldn’t take advantage too? This is why you have to make honest friends before you get famous, so they’re there to tell you you’re writing garbage but that they love you anyway and you should go back to your desk and work for another month or so to tune your jokes and get it right.

The characters are supposed to be absurd, over-the-top stereotypes (the earnest daughter, the possible terrorist, the out of touch suburban mother, the rabid Republican dad, etc.) in an absurd, over-the top plot about (what else) torture in the Bush years, but, what with the script being so weak, everyone founders. Only one of the cast – Kristine Nielsen, a Durang favorite as the mom – is able to raise her performance above the script’s faults and be truly bizarre and entertaining. She made it worth the price of admission, but barely, and I wouldn’t recommend the show to anyone but a die-hard theater go-er.

(If you are a die hard theater go-er, by the way, you will enjoy the mother’s dumptruck of insider references to recent plays by other playwrights. The audience I went with did, as did I, but I knew while I was giggling knowingly that those kinds of references, like the political ones elsewhere in the play, have a short shelf life and a limited audience.)

To top off my disappointment, I did not run into Oskar Eustis (profile here), the artistic director of the Public. I like his hair and I have a crush on his steamroller energy, but no such luck. Not that I’d have had anything to say to him if I had seen him. I should come up with some cocktail patter for those situations. Like, “I love your hair. My, you are energetic!” Do you think that would work? If someone said that to me, I’d probably let them into my Emerging Playwrights program. Wouldn’t you?

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Categories: NYC (there), Watch This

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