Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monday Nite Title Bout (April 21)

Every week, I compose listings about the week's shows for Metromix NY. I'm usually disappointed by the titles that playwrights choose for their work: most of them don't entice me into the theater. So I'm reviewing the titles now. And if you want to read my reviews of full shows, click here.

Sorry for the late post this week, but I've been felled by a spring cold. On the upside, Elizabeth Meriwether has retitled her upcoming play Oliver Parker!. Still not a good title, but what misplaced sense of irony told her to entitle the play Oliver! in the first place?

Remember when dotcoms were newfangled and it was cool to smoosh all your words into one long URL-style title sans caps? bobrauschenbergamerica looks dated now, but at least it has the effect of conflating artist and theme in one ungainly word.

This sort of title is what inspired my posts in the first place. “Elephant” is an overworked noun that doesn't entice audiences or define its theme. Is this show an adaptation of Gus Van Sant's film about Columbine HS? a musical based on the White Stripes album? a satire of the Republican Party? a stage documentary?

The only title of the week longer than two words, Empire draws in its a potential audience with its implicit metaphor. The sylvan image undercuts the martial connotation of “empire”. You may not know what the show's about, but you're curious to hear whether the writing meets the expectations that the title sets up.

The concept of the forest is fraught with so many connotations (in Shakespeare, it symbolizes freedom from civilization; in Jung it's fear of the unknown), this title tells us nothing. And if you're staging a masterpiece of Russian drama, consider adding the playwright's name: “Ostrovsky's The Forest”?

The standard “title = protagonist”, but with a twist: the absence of surname adds a touch of anonymity. Hopefully, playwright Moira Buffini picks the name partly as an allusion to the archangel who heralds the Last Judgment.

Another questionable title: this show has nothing to do with the 2008 film that earned eight Oscar nominations. But putting that aside, it tersely sets up theme as well as subject. Milk is a powerful metaphor for sustenance and nourishment as well as maternal love, but it's also shorthand for the dairy industry (the subject of this play).

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