Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Who names a play that poorly?

I wanted to go to hear a reading for theater class on a Tuesday night; I believe it was a WWII play or something. But for whatever reason, my parents picked to take me on a Thursday night. I objected loudly even at the title, and it was absolutely terrible... and lo and behold, who did I see there? Dave and Whitney!

Hillary Beth Miller
Theater 101
Nancy Halverson
(527 words)
Bastard Dynasty
The reading of Bastard Dynasty represented a play in which the acting did not move the plot along properly. The constant conflictive style, the ineffective humor, and the unclear message were brought about by the way the characters were portrayed. Although the play had some potential in delivering a not often heard message, many elements in the acting prevented this from taking place.
     First, this play consisted of one argument after another, from the beginning and all the way through. These arguments would start with Ben (the grandfather), and mostly go between Billy (the son) and Ben for quite a length, before Temple (the grandson) would speak up. Just when one argument was over, another was started, with very little if any dialogue in between. Some compression would have been beneficial to carrying the plot forward; the audience has grasped the point made by the arguing quite early into the first act, yet it is continued exactly in the following acts. This circular pattern could get very frustrating to the audience; had the tone changed at some point, perhaps all of this would have been worth the back-and-forth. Instead, the tone remained constant with very few surprises. Had the actors changed their voices’ harshness here and there, this would not have been such a hardship to endure listening to.
      Another aspect that interfered with the play was the use of humor. The jokes told were overly contrite. Some jokes, being more familiar to, and therefore naturally more funny to, the older generation, made a few people laugh, but it wasn’t a universally laughable kind of joke. Instead of providing a catharsis, the humor in this play gave an awkward sense to the audience, and while there was the occasional chuckle, it felt more like a requirement than a laugh of true enjoyment or release. The actors could have delivered some of these lines differently (assuming the director would allow so) and they would have been much funnier, evoking a proper release from the tension built by the arguing family onstage.
     In addition, the message was not conveyed strongly enough. From watching the play, one might derive that the message was about family disputes, or about generational relations, or something similar, but just watching did not give one anything to take away and apply. The actors, well into their time period by their 18th century accents and postures, seemed a little too distant to relate to the audience before them.  They failed to draw in the audience to their world, or at least show them some universal truth. There is not much pertinence as it is currently delivered.
     The acting in Bastard Dynasty interfered with moving the plot along in the unchanging tones, in the outdated humor, and the distance that kept the message from being conveyed to the audience. Variation in the tone would have kept the audience’s attention better, some changes to the jokes would have brought about the needed catharsis once in a while, and spanning the distance to relate to the modern audience would have helped in the celebration of the message better.

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