That statement may be more disappointing than any other one I think or say after seeing a show. It means I wasn't excited, or moved, or intrigued, or even outraged. Everything was just...fine. What a horrible word, "fine". Everything about it lacks a connotation or an attitude or an emotion. Just the way the letters string together is boring. And so to describe a piece of theatre that way is ultimately disheartening. Not because anything was wrong. But because nothing was in any way provoking.
I saw the Huntington's Bus Stop tonight. And it was fine. It wasn't bad. The set was perfect but not noteworthy. The direction was, as I see it, antithetical to the playwright's intentions but not out of the ordinary to how the play is generally produced. Most of the acting was competent but not interesting or particularly watchable. I sat, I watched, I laughed a little, I didn't care at all about the characters, I listened to the words and saw a very average production.
I like Bus Stop. I think it's a simple soulful play about average American people with real lives and relationships and problems. It's wistful, and sweet, funny and dark. It has the potential to be intensely moving and greatly funny.
The play I saw tonight was completely on the surface. There was no depth. There was no heart. It looked good, it sounded good, it hit the marks as far as standard American situation comedy goes. It was played for an audience who wanted to say they "saw a play at the Huntington last night, and we had a good time". It was not played to honor the playwright or to make a directorial statement, or to give actors the chance to explore rich characters. It was not played to push boundaries or explore something new or present something interesting. It was presented to season subscribers as a fun season opener with a few local and a few semi-famous names attached. It was produced to not offend anyone and to keep people happy.
And that's fine.
That is a type of theatre that exists. I'm not a fan. It doesn't mean anything to me. For me as an actor, producer, and especially audience member, to produce theatre to placate your audience is a useless creative endeavor. I believe we need to push our audiences. Will it lead to some backlash? Sure. Might you lose some subscribers? You bet. Might you gain some new audience members and engage a demographic of people who are truly interested in theatre, who want to be pushed and engaged and can leave your theatre with something other to say then "Well, that was fine."? Hell yeah.
Bus Stop plays through October 17 at the BU Theatre.
~ Always, MLM