Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Nite Title Bout (May 3)

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 are't even trying to tempt you into the theater. So I'm reviewing the titles now. And if you want to read my reviews of shows, click here.

I like this title, despite or maybe because it draws on a cliché. It plays on prior knowledge, a tactic that makes you feel smart. And it directs us to that glass house: clever, since the saying itself focuses on the people who live there. And by the final curtain, it will presumably be shattered by the play's conflict.

This formulation―“The X-people of Y-place”―is right after “protagonist's name” in recipes for a title. Here, “housewives” set up the cast and possibly a theme (female domain? feminist emancipation?). Mannheim's a large city in Germany. But is the show about hausfrauen, or are they just mentioned anecdotally?

Like the titles to many classics, The Master Builder is a brand as much as a descriptor. I find it a little unwieldy and portentous―but I suppose that's the intent, given Ibsen's interest in genius & creation. The original Norwegian title, FYI, is Bygmester Solness, which adds the protagonist's name to his title for specificity & subtly alludes to the sun (=Sol; see the play's Icarus theme).

This curiosity could go several ways, an artful ambiguity that the play may (or may not) clear up. Adding “metal” to “children” shows real poetry. It turns children―happy, playful―into mechanized metaphors. Or it's the opposite, maybe “metal” refers to the rock genre: rebellious teens who scare parents with outré iconography.

Evidently, her producers convinced Liz Meriwether that Oliver! was a glib, terrible title and that begging confusion with a popular (but awful) musical was counterproductive to finding your audience. The title's been augmented but it's still pretty bad. “Who's Oliver Parker? A nobody―the punctuation is ironic! Har har.”

Even though it lacks specificity about the show's content, This Wide Night works as a title. It's unique, humble, and interesting: modifying “night” with “wide” makes sense poetically if not literally. And it nails down the action to one night. It's the sort of title that makes me optimistic for the playwright's ability to write.

I'm conflicted about Through the Night. I enjoy its sense of the movement of time―it's interesting how this “night” feels hurried and full of momentum, whereas the “wide night” above feels reflective, even brooding. But the near-reference to the folk lullaby/carol brings this one a little close to cliché.

Solid construction but lacking euphony; it's a utilitarian set of words that impart depth and artistry via sheer weight of connotation. And it communicates a sense of irony, though I'm not sure how; maybe “tragedy” implies a fictional nature, which plays both with & against “truth”?


And on a personal note: happy birthday to Lady Hotspur!

1 comment:

kari said...

It takes more talent to write succinctly yet memorably than it does to fill 1000 words. Awesome job.