Sunday, July 22, 2007


‘SPAWN OF THE PETROLSEXUALS’ is not a pleasant experience for this reviewer

Christopher Johnston, the playwright of ‘A SPAWN OF PETROLSEXUALS,’ which is now being staged at convergence-continuum theatre, states in the playbill, “I won’t try to articulate my anger and frustration over an America I no longer know, nor our unconscionable lack of concern for consequences.”

Yes, Johnston is angry and frustrated. So am I.

Both Johnston and I are angry that America has lost its course under the corrupt Bush administration and the business overlords as well as the the over-consumption of resources and the breakdown of ethical values. Yes, unless there are some drastic changes we are on a sliding board to becoming a second-rate nation.

Beyond that, my frustration centers on the playwright and convergence’s artistic director.

I believe that theatre should be purposeful and meaningful. The author has an obligation to the audience to present a message in a way that they can reasonably understand the author’s intent. In my opinion, Johnston does not write a play that clearly states the problem or shows a way out of the void. Instead, he writes a script filled with unnecessary abstract imagery, abstract situations, and the use of profanity for the sake of using profanity. He creates abstraction for affect, rather than effect. He also creates happenings that gross out the audience for no reason (eg., one cast member realistically urinating into the mouths of two others in order to “rehydrate” them). During this scene, the person sitting next to me moaned, “That’s disgusting.” It was! Gross can be an effective tool, but what was the act’s real purpose other to gross out the viewer and show how avant garde the author was?

The question that Artistic Director Clyde Simon has to answer is, “why did you choose to stage this script?” Yes, you wanted to do an original play, and the author wrote this specifically for your theatre, but that does not mean you have to do a script of questionable quality. On the way into the theatre, one of the patrons said to Simon, “Am I going to understand this one?” Obvioulsy, the patron has been to convergence in the past and been confounded by Simon’s “unique” selection of scripts. I didn’t get a chance to ask the man after the production about his understanding, but the odds are he was as lost as most of us.

Part way through the first act a character in ‘A SPAWN OF PETROLSEXUALS’ says, “Who’s listening to this crap?” I almost yelled out, “Not me...I turned off the whole proceedings long ago,” and from observing those around me, most of the audience had joined me. The “crap” statement was followed by another of the author’s lines, “I thought and I thought and there is nothing worth saying.” My first reaction upon hearing the line was, “So, Mr. Johnson, why did you write the script?” And, the second was, “Why am I sitting here enduring this?” So, for only the second time in all my theatrical experiences, I left at intermission.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: I have sat through many, many theatrical productions. I would have to rank seeing ‘A SPAN OF PETROLSEXUALS’ at convergence as one of the most uncomfortable experiences of them all.
Side note on this review: I don’t like writing critiques that discourage people from attending the theatre, but I would be disingenuous to my readers if I was less than honest about this script and production.