When theater makes me want to talk about it afterwards, it is always a good thing.
When theater makes me stop and think, “Jeezus. . . I really don’t know anything about theater anymore,” it is an amazingly good thing.
I caught the last night of Fresno State’s production of “T.I.C Trenchcoat in Common: a blog turned into a play” this weekend. A post closure review doesn’t do anything for audiences, and, really, at this point the production can run its own post-mortem, so it doesn’t really need any more ink on it. I can tell you that I found Taylor Abels and Kelsey Oliver most engaging, and that I truly enjoyed Matthew Schiltz’s incredibly mannered characature of a gay “bio-dad”– he was shockingly affecting. The entire ensemble had some really terrific moments together, as well.
The script is where my brain had to slip sideways, a little. I’ve been mucking about in the theater world for almost 20 years and I think I finally got to the point where the online meets onstage approach on this play was a little baffling for me. But it was also a little exciting. It made my have to try to wrap my head around something and begin to figure out what might be working and what might not be working-in a non-traditional structure and style.
T.I.C. definitely borrows heavily from the sketch comedy and online worlds for its method of communication. Characters are–yes– sketched out in broad, wild terms with little nuance. But in T.I.C., those layers came in sudden stops and starts–hidden amongst the bloggy snark. I couldn’t remember how or where it got dropped in, though, the way I can in a more traditional script. Did they come in a way that speaks more to the 1000 character form of a blog entry? the 420 character Facebook update? The 140 character tweet? Sometimes it felt that way– almost like an online overshare, or an ill-timed FB Wall Post. But they’re not online. They’re onstage. The collision of the two worlds was a balancing act on a high wire.
Did it always succeed? I’m not sure. But I was never unengaged. I was never bored. I was always interested in the question of what happens to Kid and her father. And the theatricality of the piece never wavered. It just seems that my ears had to get used to an onstage communication written more like online communication. And the translation was a little . . . challenging for me.
But being challenged is a good thing. I’m still thinking about how this thing is written today. And I’ll probably continue to consider how the language of the online world, the quick and dirty world of sketch comedy, of YouTube webisodes and Gawker.com, influences the language of up and coming theater.
So, I applaud Fresno State for bringing something so off-the-beaten-path to the stages and giving these budding professionals a chance to tackle the work of the future. It is in everyone’s best interest.