Thursday, October 19, 2006
Toothpicks In My Eyelids
Last week when I was in San Mateo my friend, Jennifer Raiser, strongly recommended I see "Travesties," Tom Stoppard's 1974 comedy currently playing at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco on Geary Street.
I spent the last two days in San Francisco at a conference and had Wednesday evening free, so I decided to take Jennifer up on her recommendation.
I guess this proves Jennifer and I have different tastes in theater. I'll have to ask her how the Second Act turns out, because I walked out at the intermission (something I haven't done in about 10 years).
Stoppard is known for his verbally dense plays (think three-dimensional chess). I've seen a couple that I really liked: Jumpers and Arcadia.
But I found "Travesties" painfully boring and had a hard time just making it to the intermission.
The play imagines what would have happened if British Ambassador Henry Wilfred Carr, Lenin, Dadaist Tristan Tzara and James Joyce crossed paths in Switzerland during World War One. As if that weren't enough, the play has a structure parallel to Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest."
Most of the dialogue and allusions went right over my head. And I still don't know why some of the scenes repeated (with different outcomes).
Once intermission came I asked how long the Second Act was. When the House Manager told me, "55 minutes," I replied, "Good luck with that," and walked out the door. (I had told myself I'd stay if the Second Act was 50 minutes or less. Once a rule is laid down, it must be observed.)