Theater Goodnight, Nocturne
posted by July 25 at 12:45 PMon
I had high hopes for Nocturne, the famous show-length monologue by Adam Rapp that begins with the famously chilling opening:
Fifteen years ago I killed my sister. There. I said it.
Schmader reviewed it last weekend. He didn’t like it:
“Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.” So goes the famous opening line of Adam Rapp’s Nocturne, laying out the central fact of this acclaimed solo play and leading into a characteristically Rappian flourish: “I can change the order of the words. My sister I killed 15 years ago. I, 15 years ago, killed my sister. Sister my killed I years ago 15. I can cite various definitions. To deprive of life: The farmer killed the rabid dog. To put an end to: The umpire killed the tennis match. To mark for omission: He killed the paragraph… To slay. To murder. To assassinate. To dispatch. To execute. You can play with tenses. Will kill. Did kill….”
Thanks to Rapp’s relentless thesaurian pirouettes—the linguistic equivalent of treading water, prettily—his efforts are too often in vain. Saddled with a script so dense and flowery it makes Tennessee Williams look like a minimalist, Doescher is a winning actor in a no-win situation.
The thing is, I like Rapp’s “thesaurian pirouettes”—not everyone’s, just Rapp’s. I became a Rapp fan four years ago, after seeing WET’s production of Finer Noble Gasses (reviewed here), a disturbing, funny play about a small group of strung-out, vacant-eyed friends living in a trashy apartment.
One of the actors (Lathrop Walker, maybe?) had to take an extremely long onstage piss. Marya Sea Kaminski Finer Noble Gasses and told me at the time that it wasn’t a trick—the actor was actually pissing in an actual bucket:
“I think he drinks like a liter and a half of water before the show,” Kaminski said. “He’s got it pretty well timed, but tech week was hilarious—stopping and starting the play, his bladder was in passionate confusion.”
(I’m not sure I believe her, but I will always love her for saying “his bladder was in passionate confusion.”)
Nocturne was supposed to run for three more weekends but, after Schmader’s review came out, actor Craig Doescher emailed to say he was canceling the rest of the shows, but didn’t blame Dave:
… in SUCH an intimate space (25 seats), it is a REALLY hard show to give/receive, no matter how much finessing, and in execution—no matter how well-intended—it just wasn’t achieving what the show could and should achieve. A darn shame, but I see it crystal-clearly, and feel responsible for people who come to my shows, so I made the difficult but necessary decision.
I don’t know exactly what that means, except no more Nocturne. And that Craig Doescher has a rare, valuable sense of responsibility for his audience.