Recently, I saw a couple of plays that made me wonder: does a good play matter? Does it matter if a play is well written? Does it matter if a play is well acted? Are these TRULY important to a good theater going experience?
I’m beginning to think, no. They aren’t as important for most of the theater going audience.
The first play… (and I want to say I’m not going to mention names, as I didn’t really like the plays)… was a realistic comedy, set in an apartment, about a widow rediscovering life. Well, that’s what eventually it was about, the first 30 minutes are about something else. In fact, that was one of my major complaints about the play. It wasn’t sure what it was about sometimes. It wasn’t sure of it’s tone. It wasn’t sure of itself. And then wrapped the story up in two scenes… and the stuff of those two scenes could’ve been a whole act. Personally, it SHOULD have been a whole act, the time required to really unpack the story and to earn the ending.
But. None of my complaints mattered. The audience I saw it with, love it. They loved that it was funny. They loved the costumes. They that they recognized themselves in the play.
The second play was an adaptation of a much beloved classic. Costume drama, basically. And, pretty much it was exactly what you would expect. Costume drama. The scenes from the book that you remember. In other words, sorta bland. We got what we thought. But not MORE. There was very little that surprised me. Nothing made me think. (Or want to read the book.) It was the thing itself. I could’ve seen the movie. In other words, it wasn’t THEATER. It wasn’t magic. It lacked a point of view. And imagination. It just was…
But. That didn’t matter. The audience still seemed engaged. They clapped. Some stood. There was laughing where the punchlines were. And the costumes were nice.
So, really? Does a good play matter? Yes. BUT. Not as much as I would’ve thought. Of course, I’m a playwright, so I’m bound to want the quality of a play matter.
While it’s good to have a good play, maybe remembering the audience is important. Remembering that in comedy, we want to see ourselves, to see these we recognize as ourselves. Remembering in adaptation, sometimes we just to see the thing that we love, not more, not less, but the thing itself. Maybe what’s the most important thing is being able to cross the curtain and truly be with an audience.