September 18, 2004

Always the Women

Tonight I saw a one-woman show in Kresge called Always the Women. It's an amalgamation of stories from the four Gospels featuring women. Not only the stories, but the language itself is taken; the script is basically a cut-and-paste job from the NIV translation (with some minor adjustments).

A potentially interesting idea that only worked moderately well. In the Q&A session afterwards the actor, Nina Thiele, pointed out that it was important and difficult to make it more than a recitation of Bible verses, and she's right. I think the problem was that she didn't draw from a broad enough palette of emotions (and overdid the ones she did use); everyone was either furious or ecstatic or incredulous. Except Jesus, who was frequently not emotional at all.

There were a few great moments, and these served chiefly to provide a contrast against which to judge the rest of it. These moments had in common that they contained no articulated words---they were voiceless interjections that were pure interpretations, and brought us the sense that she was depicting real people.

The "narrator" character deserves special note, because it was the most frustrating. The narrator spent most of her time amazed, and the amazement was either 1) "I can't/Can you believe this is happening" or 2) "I can't/Can you believe these people don't know what's going on". I don't think either one worked very well, and they worked especially badly in combination. (I think the second kind was accidental, as after the show she mentioned that she was largely trying for a "this has never happened before, incredible!" sort of approach.) I see what she was getting at, but it just wasn't working. Maybe if it had been a little lighter: "wow!" instead of "OMG!!!11".

I do have to say that one of the best, most genuine moments is the very last one: as Mary Magdalene she says (approximately) "He had to tell his story, and he told it to me!" I'm not seeing it in any of the four (the rest of the scene was definitely the version from John), so this may have been one of the few additions; a good one, imo.

I've been going back and forth all evening as to whose fault the problems were. On the one hand, by restricting herself to the exact wording of the Bible, she's set herself a big task and some very difficult hurdles to overcome, and many of the problems might just be the fault of the "script" not being chiefly designed for a dramatic presentation. On the other hand, there were definitely a lot of places where I could envision a specific different way she could have said the same words to improve the scene immensely. But in the end, it's probably a combination of different things. I'm not sorry I went to see it, but I can't really recommend it to anyone else (which is too bad, because Ms. Thiele seems really nice and sincere).

"Osgood, I'm a man!"
"Well, nobody's perfect." --Some Like It Hot

Posted by blahedo at 11:32pm on 18 Sep 2004
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