Friday, May 2, 2008

Channing Gray: This is Not the Show You're Looking For

Channing Gray is back with a review of Trinity Rep's Paris By Night that is as inoffensive as it is indifferent. That is, until the penultimate paragraph, when he unwraps this jewel of a reassurance. It glitters with tactlessness and curiosity:
And for those who are not big on guy-on-guy relations, not to worry. This is not a racy show. There’s very little face-to-face contact, and nothing like simulated sex or hard-core leather-bar action.
(Thank God, the doyens of the East Side exhale; if I have to sit through one more hard-core leather-bar musical at Trinity I'm just gonna puke.)

I love how this paragraph builds to an erotic climax, gratuitous and trivial. Don't worry about this show, he says; I'll give you something to get all bunched up about. From "guy-on-guy relations" to "leather-bar action," the paragraph swells with its own heated concupiscence. There are so many honest, discrete ways to say what he's trying to say, but Gray has an irrepressibly carbonated imagination. So it's not enough to write--as though even this were necessary--that the show is basically PG-rated; he has to vividly describe the salacious show from which Providence would have to be protected by his warning. But in the process of approving the show's character he actually impugns its provenance and genre: he limits the show by association. I suspect Gray was trying to allay theater-goers' concerns, but his effort is leering and disingenuous.

Therefore, as a service to the people of Providence, I offer a comprehensive, alphabatized list of all the other things that are not in this show: avacados, bears, cars, data, everything not related to the love story between Sam and Buck, flocks of geese, Gary Hart, Heart, imprisonment (except for the metaphysical, symbolic kind), Jell-O, karate, lassos, maps indicating Paris's numerous leather-bars, narcotics, origami, parakeets, quintuplets, Reaganomics, severed heads (!!!), terrorists, underpants, verandas, whipping of hot hot men with a cat o' nine tails and then tying them to a bed and going CRAZY on them all night, xeroxing of data, yogurt, zebras (duh).

These things were also not in such plays as Antigone, Much Ado About Nothing, and Death of a Salesman. (Oklahoma! did have lassos and, possibly, underpants, so it's not on this list.) Now you can decide if Paris By Night is really the show for you.


V. said...

When I read your blog I have to keep a dictionary close at hand. Interesting post, John. I agree with your critique of his review, but I also agree with his review sans the thinly veiled dig at the end.

John Rogers said...

Yeah. The review itself isn't half bad. (I reluctantly concede.) "PBN" is a corny melodrama--but then again, what musical isn't? There's not much of a story, per se, but I think the process of self-discovery, hurried though it may be, is, for both Sam and Buck, pretty engaging.

I can't wait to see it again to see how Joe and James grow into their characters. Since the show's most important action is Sam and Buck's uneasy orbit, I hope that they can make their tentative attraction clearer.

Rachael said...

i thought you should know that you're the new hero of the trinity rep dressing room.

thank you for the passion & intellectual rigor with which you view & write about our work. it's a breath of fresh air.

you do have two slight inaccuracies regarding things not included in PARIS BY NIGHT, however; our theatre parakeets, mel & flo, appear briefly & the word zebra is spoken twice.

please--keep up the excellent work!

Lynnette said...

and there is yogurt eaten (though it is made to look like soup)- am I too Brechtian in my response? Your responses to our work is both refreshing, intellectually rigorous, sound,and, as rachael said, much appreciated by the actors. Thank you so much for your continued attention, participation, and observation. Peace!

John Rogers said...

Yogurt that looks like soup; parakeets that I could have sworn were cockatoos; the word zebra I (twice) mistook for "leather-clad sex-master" ...the litany of errors is a long and sad one.

Thanks so much for reading and for correcting these ridiculous errors. They won't happen again.

Correction: They WILL happen again. That's: "WILL."