Monday, October 13, 2003

7 BL*WJ*BS (convergence-continuum)

Convergence-continuum presents another Wellman play

I’ve always believed that the value of any of the arts was in the mind of the beholder. While one person might think of Jackson Pollack’s paintings as random purposeless blots of paint, others will wax eloquently about Pollack’s creativity. Phillip Glass’s atnonal music is like the scratching of fingernails on the blackboard to some and engrossing to others. The same is true of theatrical scripts and productions. Not everyone agrees on what is great theatre.

Convergence-continuum is in a run of Mac Wellman’s ‘7 BL*WJ*BS.’ The theatre’s Artistic Director Clyde Simon is an admirer of Wellman’s works. He loves the writers“unconventional material and characters.” I, on the other hand, am not a fan of Wellman’s creations.

Last spring I revealed in a review of the theatre’s production of ‘SINCERITY FOREVER’ that Wellman purports that, “It is not interesting at this point in human time to portray the real world as it seems to be in its own terms; but it is interesting to unfold, in human terms, the logic of its illogic and so get at the nut of our contemporary human experience.” I stated, “The production of ‘SINCERELY YOURS’ is outstanding. It far surpasses the quality of the wordy play.”

My reaction to ‘7 BL*WJ*BS’ is exactly the same...good production of a script that is of questionable value. I don’t think Wellman said anything that hasn’t been said before, often better. And, I also think that Simon’s directing was right on target.

Audience members were also of mixed mind. At intermission, some of the audience disappeared. During the production some laughed hysterically, many others, myself included, were more restrained. At the curtain call while some screamed and applauded, others clapped politely.

I’m not the only theatre critic who responds negatively to Wellman’s work. One states, “Mac Wellman's ‘7 BL*WJ*BS’ attempts to poke fun at right-wing prudes but its thin, repetitive script doesn't stand up for the play's entire two-act length.” Further comments include, “Unfortunately, the play doesn't rise to the promise of its initial concept.” Another intones, “The play's badly overworked main joke is stretched from the two minutes it's worth to two acts.”

That said, what’s the play about? The plot centers on what happens when a right-wing senator's office receives a package of seven indecent pictures. Gawking disapprovingly at the scandalous pictures, the senator's staff are later joined by the senator and a religious leader who continue to discuss the pictures. We are exposed to the scandals, religious influences on decision making, corruption in government, and pseudo attitudes of both conservatives and liberals in our government.

The cast is quite good, especially given what they have to work with. Especially strong are Chuck Richi as the Senator, Cliff Bailey as Reverend Tom, and Brian Breth and Lauri Hammer as two of the staff members.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you like Wellman’s writing style you will have yet another chance to experience it when convergence-continuum presents his script, ‘CLEVELAND’ in December. I’ll go because I really think Simon has a knack for directing Wellman’s work, but if the “plot” and the story development aren’t anything more than ‘SINCERELY FOREVER’ and ‘7 BL*WJ*BS,” I’ll again wind up applauding the actors and the production, but not the play.