SHOWING : September 04, 2008 - October 04, 2008
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
In this sexually charged thriller, ghosts of the past haunt sisters Rhoda and Gwen as they pack away their ancestral home. When Gwen's son Finn arrives on the scene, his restlessness and curiosity lead him into an illicit relationship with a mysterious neighbor. What follows is a chilling erotic saga which will force a family to face the sins of the past -- and keep you on the edge of your seat.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Intimations of Sense and Meaning|
Monday, October 13, 2008 ||
It’s 9:37 PM. Do you know where your children are?|
Other writers have praised the sets and style of “Finn in the Underworld,” but have gone on to say “I just don’t get it.”
Director Freddie Ashley reports a theatre-savvy actress/patron saying about “Finn in the Underworld,” “I didn’t understand it, but I can’t stop thinking about it.”
My own personal take is that I could give you my interpretation of what it “means,” as could half-a-dozen other writers, and I daresay all the “takes” would be different, and would have no relevance to your experience of this play, and would, in my humble opinion, diminish its effect.
So, let me frame this review in the form of questions, questions that may have several “correct” answers, or no “correct” answer. Let me couch my opinion by saying the point of the play to me was to create a mood, a creepy feeling that kept me off-balance and questioning the (lack of) evidence before my eyes. The performances by Marianne Fraulo, Mira Hirsch, Doyle Reynolds, and Louis Gregory were rich with indecipherable and ambiguous sub-text, and the mood left me with a haunting feeling I can’t shake. Let me repeat a point I’ve made before, that sometimes a theatrical experience is better for leaving questions open and unanswered, for only intimating a dream-sense, for using sensation and (seeming) incoherence to create a coherent mood. Tying “meaning” into a neat bow is not the point, and would, again, diminish the experience.
It’s 9:37 PM. Do you know who your children are?
Does “Finn in the Underworld” owe its style to the tradition of surrealism, the stream-of-consciousness techniques mastered by writers like Rimbaud and Joyce and Woolf? If so, why do you expect its meaning to fall into your lap like cobwebs from the ceiling?
Does the “reality” of “Finn in the Underworld” owe more to the reality of dreams and disjointed schizophrenic hallucinations than to the contrivances of strict cause/effect plot crafting?
When you wake shuddering from a nightmare, what has more meaning for you, the illogical story-thread of the dream, or the shaking terror it caused you?
When the analyst of your dreams tells you “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” how do you know whether or not it’s true? And does it really matter?
In “Finn in the Underworld,” we see four actors. I, for one, do not believe we see four characters. Am I wrong? Are we seeing disturbed people play-acting? Or are we in the mind of one of the characters’ disturbed fantasies, the one continually popping those blue anti-psychotics (or are they placebos?), the one who could be conflating different people, different memories, different hallucinations?
Could the entire play be her mind’s eye’s drug-or-psychosis addled vision of a guilty / horrific incident that won’t stay dead? Are the incidents in the shelter, those she is not part of, only her projection/justification for a guilty secret, traumatic witness, imagined terror?
Taking another track, can the play instead be the result of genetic evil manifesting itself as a ghost that passes from character to character, from generation to generation?
After the final moments of the play, what will the sisters find in the shelter? A recently dead young man, or a long-past dry-bones skeleton from the past? Will both women come out?
Is the gentle irony of the shelter being the most feared room, the center for the ghosts/hauntings/nightmares lost on all but the most analytical lit-major mind?
Can watching/participating in another’s dream/nightmare/hallucination ever equal the cause-effect illogic of the dreamer/mad(wo)man?
Does the constant time-jump structure, particularly to the ever-repeating 9:37 PM, indicate a contrivance to build effect-cause mood-logic, or is it a symptom of an a-logical imagination? Are the various 9:37 PM scenes taking place on different days, different years, or they different interpretations of a single madness-inducing trauma?
When Finn is in the scene with the sisters, does he only interact with one of them, or was that a delusion of my own memory trying to over-interpret what is the product of madness (or evil)? Is he really there?
Doesn’t most of what we know, most of the exposition, come from the least reliable character? Or, again, is that my faulty memory creating a pattern that wasn’t really there (My own “Madonna-on-the-Grilled-Cheese” simulacra, if you will)?
What about the extremity of the gay sex subtext/übertext/ur-text? Is it another aspect of the hallucination, or a motivation for the original, if indeed there was an original, trauma?
Will you be reading this before the play closes on October 4th, or is every question I raise now moot and pointless?
Would it make sense to write a review in which sense and order are imposed on a work in which sense and order are, at best subverted by madness (or evil), at worst irrelevant?
It’s 9:37 PM. Do you know what your children are?
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Saturday, September 13, 2008 ||
I know I am not one of the “cool kids”. I am an overweight, bald, middle-aged suburbanite. I almost never wear black. I drive a Toyota mini-van. I am not that well read, that well educated, nor that well travelled. Mind you, I’m not stupid, I have travelled somewhat, and have been known to read a good book or watch a good movie.|
I enjoy Theatre. I don’t “live and breathe” Theatre. I don’t “devour” Theatre. I didn’t grow up in “Theatre” nor did I matriculate in “Theatre”. I simply enjoy it. I enjoy watching it and I enjoy paticipating in it.
I enjoy it when it entertains me. I enjoy it when it challenges me. I enjoy it when it tells me a good story or introduces me to an interesting person, concept, conflict or relationship. I am fascinated by its magical ability to impact an audience emotionally. I am awed by its spectacle and humbled by its creativity. I enjoy it when it's done well. I am joyful when it surprises me. I am thrilled when it delivers results beyond the limitations of its given talent and resources.
But the fact of the matter is sometimes I just don’t ”get it”.
I’m not really sure if anybody else “gets it” either, but they are usually cool enough not to let it show. I, on the other hand, am decidedly un-cool. If I don’t “get it”, I’m going to say I don’t “get it”.
My wife and I saw Actors Express’s current production of “Finn in the Underworld” on Saturday night September 6th. The director, the theatre company, the cast and the writer are all well respected talents. The promotional material (and the director himself in his curtain speech) promised an “erotic thriller” that would keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
The set was great. The lighting was great. The actors were great. The premise was clever. The presentation was creative.
But, ninety minutes later, as we left the theatre, we were confused and feeling decidedly “suburbanite”.
Wish I could say more about the show, but the bottom line is: I just didn’t “get it” (In all honesty, I’m not sure even the cool kids “got it” either (but they’ll never say so).
P.S. – I hate being stupid in public, so can somebody help me out here?
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || You're not alone by green2u|
| I've had two sets of urbanites who are more likely the target audience for the play (e.g. guppies) who voiced similar comments.|
| || Ditto, my intelligent, but not intellectual, friend. by Sweet Babboo|
| I have not seen this play either, so I can't comment on it either way. But, for the most part, I don't enjoy "masterbation theatre" either where the actors onstage are having a better time than the audience. This may sound like a sacriledge to some on this board (my husband, for one, who is seeing this show next week.)What often enthralls him at the theatre (Bug and Tom Paine ring a bell, sweet cheeks?) simply befuddles me. I consider myself intelligent, but not an intellectual. When I see a play, I prefer the 90-10 ratio. Entertain me for 90% and you'll have me for the remaining 10% when you want me to think, be moved, shocked, outraged, whatever, by the end. It can't be just us unenlightened souls who live "OTP", can it? Perish the thought! |
- Mrs. Dedalus
| || Careful, mon sucre Babboo ... by Dedalus|
| ... coining a term like "Masturbation Theatre" presupposes that if you don't like a show, no one likes it. It's as meaningless (and potentially insulting) as if I were to coin the term "Prostitution Theatre" and apply it to those plays for which the cast and producers (maybe even the writers) have no personal affection, and do it "just for the bucks." Remind me again how many productions of "Rumors" you've seen and how many "Lend me a Tenor"'s you've done. I happened to have enjoyed (a lot) both shows you cited.|
That being said, I won't be seeing "Finn" until the first Wednesday in October, but, based on what I've read, I daresay I'll be predisposed to like it. I'm one of those un-cool "Elitist" types who like shows that are open-ended and don't tie all the plot details up into a nicely contrived bow. Talking with Freddie Ashley the other day, he commented that one person remarked to him that she had no idea what the play "meant," but, all the same, she couldn't stop thinking about it.
All this goes back to me preferring interesting questions over pat answers.
Maybe I won't "get it" either. But, in my eyes, "getting it" is the least of pleasures to be had at the theatre.
-- B. J. Moose (ÄåäÜëõò, ÐáôÝñáò ôçò ºêáñïò)
| || hehehe... by mooniemcmoonster|
| I, personally, have no qualms with the term "Prostitution Theatre" nor do I have any qualms with the term "Masterbatory Theatre". Things are what they are. And you have to do what you have to do. No shame in that, regardless of what you decide to call it.|
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)