Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Monday Night Title Bout (May 31)

Every week, I compose listings about the week's shows for Metromix NY. I'm usually disappointed by the titles that playwrights choose to call their work, so I'm reviewing the titles now. Not the shows (I haven't seen them yet) just the titles. To read about the content of each show, click through its link to my listings on Metromix NY.

Portmanteaus are tricky to work with: they should seem to combine naturally a pair of concepts into one fluid word. “Amerimessiah” is useful―our culture loves a heroic leader/savior more than a cooperative effort―but it doesn't quite work as poetry. Ultimately, I admire the effort but not the execution.

I detest the clause “The Musical”. A product of marketing, it shows no imagination. And in this case, it's redundant: if the audience will see this show simply cuz of their names, then they already know that Dietrich & Chevalier were actor-singers. Also I'm skeptical of their name-drawing power in 2010. Incidentally, their given names would be a better, more euphonic choice: Marlene & Maurice.

This one's got a nice burst of poetry to it, located in the “dreams” that are the work's subject (and what does a king dream about?), in the fable-like phrasing, and even the subtle rhyming nod to the “Fisher King”. Ambiguously, a “washer king” may be an industrial magnate of die-cast metal discs or of household machines (a la “the Sausage King of Chicago”), or he may rule over something else entirely, literally or metaphorically.

Pretentious. It borrows its high tone from the acting style that, in modern times, is seen as bombastic. There's no ambiguity or irony to The Grand Manner, just lionization and a blunt laying-out of subject and theme.

A good one-word title with plenty of meanings. A command, a heirarchy, a state of being, a taxonomy, a selection from a menu: hopefully, the playwright plays around with all of these definitions and more.

Shakespeare resorted to formula to title his tragedies, though who knows if he even picked the title himself? FYI,  the full title is The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, which tells you exactly what you're going to see. Utilitarian but specific, those eight words allow producers a lot of range for titling, which they don't take advantage of.

Who doesn't enjoy a good syndrome? This one's a variation on “Stendhal Syndrome”, which describes a nervous condition tourists get when they're overwhelmed by the art in Florence, Italy. Plus, this phrase works simply as a title, implying a foreigner's adventure in Paris.

An allusion to the '04 bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven, a pastor's account of his near-death experience. For some reason, I suspect that the reference is meant ironically―maybe that's just my own stereotype of NY theater artists as agnostics who're more focused on the here-and-now?

I can't imagine a duller title for a summer theater festival, except maybe Summer Theater Festival. Do they produce new plays, free outdoor Shakespeare, puppet dramas or what? This gun-metal grey title isn't telling.

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