Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Theater: Title Bout (December 14)

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.


DRACULA
An adaptation of the classic gothic horror novel. If you're going to name your work after a character, better make him or her memorable! Bram Stoker's antagonist is one of the most enduring fictional characters of the 19th century. FYI, the word means 'dragon' in Romanian, & its uncanny, foreign set of sounds contributes to the appeal.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
One of the great titles of all time, largely because the play's content―Wilde's puckish irony & his punning on Ernest/earnest―subverts the title's superficial meaning. The phrase itself suggests a moral parable on a pretty dull subject and it could serve as the message of plenty of lukewarm rom-coms. But imagine the prank on a ticketholder who expects moral rectitude!

MUMMENSCHANZ
'Mummenschanz' is a medieval German phrase with a tortuous derivation. More generally, mummers are European folk performers in the same loose genre as mimes, clowns, jugglers, etc. So who are Mummenschanz? Swiss hippie performers who draw on that folk tradition. The name is untranslatable, so the word pretty much refers directly to the troupe at this point.

OTHER DESERT CITIES
A slippery title that seems to point away from itself. What desert city is it talking about that it invokes 'others'? It somehow suggests the isolation that's part of a desert city anyhow. It's not a hugely memorable phrase but it is enigmatic.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Theater: Title Bout (December 7)

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.

BLOOD FROM A STONE
I'm never impressed by playwrights who apply clich├ęs without a twist. Hard to say whether this one is reusing the phrase or implying that its tale will actually show people doing the (seemingly) impossible. And at least it's a grisly bit of imagery.

A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES
An adaptation of the Dylan Thomas short story. It's got a nice rhythm: two iambs separated by a X on “Christmas”, which slows the tongue down a bit and thus focuses on the holiday nature of the piece. “A Child's Christmas” treads a nice line between generic & specific, while the location adds further specificity. Despite all that, the title's a little grey & flavorless.

DONNY AND MARIE: A BROADWAY CHRISTMAS
I admit to being impressed that, forty years on, Donny & Marie are still a recognizable draw on first names alone (at least, for an above-30 crowd). Granted that, I guess this is exactly what its utilitarian title implies: an old-fashioned holiday revue.

NEWSICAL THE MUSICAL
This title parodies the decade-old Seussical: The Musical, a musical anthology of Dr. Seuss tales with a pretty memorable title of its own. The flawed rhyme of the original (a hard 's' & then a soft one) is improved here, & the sense of silliness is kept. But the allusion's probably recognized only by Broadway die-hards. Doesn't matter though: everyone can guess that this is a silly news revue in musical burlesque format, so the title does its job.

THREE PIANOS
A dull prosey title. Very modernist: it doesn't care if it alienates you. But it does get a concert setting/subject across.