Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Theater: Title Bout (February 8)

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.

Refitting a phrase for your own ends can be clever, if your work's content adds irony. But the danger is that, on its own, your title will look dull. “Body” gives this writer space to maneuver, offering several readings (even a hint of sex!), while “Politic” slips the  work's subject in.

Gogol's short story, sometimes published without a definite article (Russian doesn't use them). A problem here is that diaries make for poor drama―even worse than letters, which at least imply a pair of characters! Of course, it does promise us a madman! So do you change the title, keep it for the Gogol reference, or change it to Gogol's Madman?

On the face of it, Good People is too gentle to thrill. But something about its flatness suggests a struggle, that its people fall short of being good or that their goodness isn't enough.

A good prepositional phrase extends beyond itself to imply an entire sentence. In this case, the use of the second-person implies even more: a pair of characters. To add more to the puzzle, In Your Image inverts a Biblical allusion, “Let us make Man in our image,” says God(s) in Genesis. It's a bit compelling but also amorphous and a little pompous to boot.

Gotta love that exclamation point! It gives this one-word title an extra kick, turning it into some '50s sci-fi B-movie.

This title stinks of nostalgia. It's pretty clearly a show about a winning sports team. But unlike In Your Image above, the preposition refers to the clause (i.e. it's a demonstrative pronoun), which makes it a little solipsistic. That's where the nostalgia comes from.

Here, the title creates irony by reversing a standard turn-of-phrase. It also cuts the cliché's opening, which makes the reader do a little work. Presumably, the show's about the weaknesses and frustrations of the family bond. But to its credit, the imagery is strong: water, like air, can literally be thin. But by cutting the first half of the cliché & leading with "thinner than", the metaphor of thinness comes as a surprise.

1 comment:

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