Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In the Daylight (Vital Theatre)

In the Daylight
Vital Theatre Company
September 17, 2009
Tony Glazer (writer)
John Gould Rubin (director)

From the audience, the vertiginous angle of the stark white set looks like the a film-noir still in negative. Christopher Barreca's design is one of the coolest in town. Too bad In the Daylight, the show it sets the stage for, doesn't measure up. Playwright Tony Glazer tries on styles, tones, and genres like clothes, but he can't find the look he's going for.

Daylight starts out as a vicious modern drama that echoes Greek tragedy. Think Orestes: a louche son returns to his family estate (here a Jersey McMansion) where his mom and sis bicker over a terrible secret. Ashley Austin Morris, as a bumpkin with her own secret, applies lessons learned from Charles Busch to create a surreal intrusion into the realistic drama. But the show scuds sideways under John Gould Rubin's direction: halfway in, who knows what the play's really about? That fact plus the show's brevity equal valid reasons to cut the intermission.

The second-act twists work their own satisfaction, in the boulevard tradition of Agatha Christie stage adaptations. But I'd guess that Glazer had hoped to write a modern noir: his spiffy dialogue, femmes fatale, and late-inning twists suggest savage and cynical pleasure. Still, if that's the case, why does so much of Daylight follow Aunt Agatha's pattern—including a storm cutting the power and an exposition-laden climax? Glazer over-reaches by adding a sense of fatalism, when he's simply written a potboiler. In the Daylight is passably entertaining, but it's also pretty silly.


In the Daylight plays at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre (2162 Broadway, betw. 76th and 77th), closing on October 5. Tickets?

photo: Gili Getz


Anonymous said...

When did having fun at the theatre -- silly genre or no -- become a bad thing? The night I saw this show the audience was on their feet for a standing ovation, after laughing out loud MANY times thru the show .... seems like a raging success to me.

Shelby said...

I really enjoyed this play. I thought it was fun and shocking and dark --- a great night at the theater overall. I liked the fact that the playwright chose a sneaky way to suck us in and then slap us in the face. Overall a great entertaining night.

Hotspur said...

I enjoyed the show too, & I love genre pieces! But I got whiplash every time its tone shifted or its plot twisted. And at the halfway point, I wasn't really sure where it was going or if it even was headed anywhere in particular. So yep, entertaining but, I think, a little sloppy.

Shelby: as much as I'm a sucker for plot, I think holding secrets from the audience is kind of manipulative. It's also so much more fun to let us in on the secret so we watch how the other characters don't know (Shakespeare loves doing that).

And thanks for your notes!

Charles said...

I have to say, I loved this show. I randomly wandered into the theater based purely on the poster artwork having no idea what to expect. What I found is a strong new American voice in theater and an amazing production as well. While trying to find out more about Glazer's other plays, I found your website, and felt the need to share my thoughts.

Hotspur said...

Thanks, Charles. I admire your spontaneity! I wish more people walked into theaters on a whim.