Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Theater: Title Bout (September 1)

Every week, I compose listings on the week's new plays for Metromix NY. I'm often disappointed by the titles that playwrights choose for their work, so I'm reviewing their 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.

(Note: August has been a slow month for new shows. Only two opened last week, & none the week before. So I saved them for this week's list. Enjoy!)

Not bad. It's not a cliché, though it's reminiscent of 'end of the world' & 'top of the world'. And it is an allusion―to a Tom Waits song, which only heightens the bluesiness of the image.

Another allusion, this one to the sinister nursery rhyme about falling babies. But it does its job cleverly, eliminating the context and drawing attention away from the famous source. The modal form of 'to rock' (ie “will”) brings a sense of either destiny or threat to the title, flipping the usually quiet action of a cradle on its head. It's one of my favorites, actually.

What a generic string of words! Only the 'must' has any kick to it. Shakespeare can get away with impersonal pronouns (eg As You Like It), but not many others can. (I'm looking at you, Pirandello.)

See previous note. Plus, this grammatical construction of the first-person singular pronoun is a conventional phrase and, in titles, a cliché. I'm not sorry to have the De La Soul track stuck in my head, but it's the best of a dozen songs with the title.

Shaw's one of my favorite playwrights, but he's not great at titles. To give you some context, this is one of his best. It uses his favorite tool, misdirection, in a few ways. It pulls our focus off the protagonist (Vivie Warren) to the antagonist (her mother) and then to the conflict between them. And in 1894 England, Shaw is subverting Victorian prudery by using euphemism to draw attention to a taboo subject (prostitution).

Smooshing all your words together is so '90s, especially if you capitalize the first letter of each word―think of all those websites mid-decade whose ads used that device. Too bad: the phrase itself is okay. It's specific and singular. It has the ominous air of a child's nightmare, yet “underneath” is the grammar of an adult.

1 comment:

Leah said...

When it comes to being De La it's just me, myself and I.