In going through my stack of blog subjects, which I can never keep up with, I found a program from another show that’s closed. “Oh, the Humanity and other Exclamations: Five Short Plays by Will Eno” was at the Flea until December 22nd, and I saw it early in the run. A playwright friend came I from out of town and it was his first choice.
I’d read and heard about Eno, particularly about “THOM PAINE (based on nothing)” and the controversy the play caused (I unfortunately missed seeing the show). That kind of talk (“it’s not a play!”) makes me suspicious. Surely the theatre is broad enough to hold lots of different kinds of plays. Back in the 80s, there was s show on Broadway, “Andre Heller’s Wonderhouse,” that was made up of old-fashioned acts from European circuses- bell-ringers, a water glass player, a lady yodeler, etc. It was just great. It received a vitriolic review from the New York Times (the then chief theatre critic did not think circus worthy of Broadway), and closed quickly. I never really understood the critic’s motivation- was it to punish the producers? To somehow keep the theatre pure for his readers? What is to be gained by keeping rigid boundaries around what is theatre and what isn’t?
The writing of “Oh, the Humanity” was really inspiring: Evocative, clear, humorous, resonating images, the perfect note of human fragility. There were pieces that resonated more with me than others. In contrast to the Voice review (link above), I didn’t think as much of “The Bully Composition” or “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rain” as I did of the other pieces. Jim Simpson, the artistic director of the Flea, directed, and didn’t muck up the evening with too much realism. I’d never seen Marisa Tomei on stage (though “My Cousin Vinny” runs on cable ceaselessly), and she gave a nuanced, thoughtful performance. Brian Hutchinson’s performance was amazing, particularly in “Behold the Coach, in a Blazer, Uninsured.” I’d never seen or heard of him, and I left the Flea wanting to work with him. I am eager to see what he, Tomei and Eno do next.