When Actors Can’t Even Save The Play They’re In

(Content Warning: brief discussion of trans*phobia, Nazism, sexual violence.)

I’m a huge fan of thee-aye-tah (theatre). I like venues, I like stages, I like audiences, I like lights, I like music, I like actors. Sometimes, however, a production cannot save a play from just tanking.

I’m also all for weird-ass-shit. I like performance art. I like Finnegans Wake. I’m queer and pretend to be hip. I can stare at upside down urinals for hours. All of these together morph my aesthetic tastes, which, at times, can be questioned (but I’ll never admit it).

Last weekend, I attended the second night of “Marisol” that was put on my the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. I was SO EXCITED. Not only did I have a friend in the show (who performed AMAZINGLY) but I also haven’t been to a SMTD production in a while (I usually go to student group performances). I was anticipating the flawlessness of the performance, which is exactly what I got. The acting was amazing. There was so much passion present. I could feel their emotions emanating off of them and hitting me in the face. The energy never faltered and I was emotionally fatigued at intermission, at the end, and for days to come. The acting, for me, sold the entire performance and I think that I’m going to miss the amount of talent that is present on this campus when I move away.

The actual written play was horrendous. While I think Rivera’s post-apocalyptic landscape was admirable insofar as he tried building and executing many different themes, tropes, and imagery, and pull it off as cohesive, it just didn’t work. When I attend a play I can accept the fantastical, I can accept the absurd, I can even (sometimes) accept problematic bullshit. But all together and at once was traumatizing.

Why is the moon orbiting around Saturn? This never was explained fully besides God’s senileness. God “being old” (whatever this means) doesn’t destroy physics. And if age could destroy the world, why were all other laws of physics seemingly still in place? HOW COULD HUMANS FIGHT A COSMIC ANGELIC WAR BY THROWING STONES AT THE SKY? These questions remain unanswered.

Why do plays have to perpetuate gender norms and stereotypes and use pregnant men as jokes? Not only is this bordering on trans*phobic, but it isn’t ever explained. God is so out of it that everyone just gets a womb? But why? For why?

Why are there Nazi’s? Sure, there could be neo-Nazi’s but there’s a really important difference. Also (neo)Nazi’s don’t hate everyone (even though they do hate most people), and to have them as these mass serial killers made little sense? Why use a historically loaded term when you could just make something new up?

Why was a man burned by the nazi’s trying to jack off to the moon, which he was trying to pull back into orbit via a giant magnet from his wheelchair?  This scene, while, yes, the most poetic, was the biggest *facepalm* moment of my life.

Why does sexual violence have to be used as a plot device? And for a shitty plot? I’m tired of sexual violence being used in ways that either perpetuate rape culture, or used in ways to develop plot (and not characters), or used in ways that are just bad. Everything is the worst.

People have told me that my critique isn’t valid. The play is just “edgy.” But, to me, the term “edgy” doesn’t mean that you can have an incoherent plot with problematic details, angsty angels, dying god, New York City, and a fog machine that smells a little like tobacco and weed (that doesn’t give highs just headaches). Ugh.

The acting almost saved the play. And then the whole thing ended with a message of hope after a lengthy narrativizing soliloquy. AKA the students of SMTD shine even in the midst of the apocalypse. AKA (passibly) queer women of color ended the play hand in hand and that was enough for me to clap. And, perhaps, that is the point.

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