Characters in Richard Greenberg’s performs are inclined to unburden themselves in spoken arias. Lengthy theatrical monologues are their staple, filled with verbal curlicues, erudite allusions and pent-up fury.
These are urbane audio system, extremely educated, and steeped within the arts if not artists themselves. In Greenberg’s Tony Award-winning “Take Me Out,” Denis O’Hare, enjoying a lonely and eccentric homosexual man who discovers in baseball the that means of American democracy,
delivers a paean to America’s pastime that tempted audiences to cease the present with a standing ovation on the breathless finish of his oratorical dwelling run.
A sure kind of actor thrives in these prolix circumstances. My introduction to Greenberg’s type got here, fortunately, by way of the fluent Peter Frechette within the Broadway manufacturing of “Jap Normal.” My appreciation deepened after seeing John Slattery, Patricia Clarkson and Bradley Whitford in Manhattan Theatre Membership’s crisply articulate manufacturing of “Three Days of Rain.”
South Coast Repertory, lengthy an inventive dwelling for Greenberg, commissioned and initially produced “Three Days of Rain.” “A Shot Rang Out: A Play in One Man,” a brand new solo work that opened over the weekend on the theater’s Segerstrom Stage, marks the thirteenth of his performs to be produced at SCR, a exceptional 10 of which (together with this one) have been world premieres.
This prolonged monologue, which takes the type of a loose-jointed tutorial speak, was written expressly for SCR’s creative director, David Ivers, to carry out. Greenberg was engaged by Ivers to write down a play on the onset of the pandemic that may very well be introduced, just about or in-person, relying on epidemiological situations.
Written with Greenberg’s customary eloquence, the work displays the uncertainty of its fee. “A Shot Rang Out” appears like a Zoom play that has been given the inexperienced mild by public well being authorities for theatrical presentation. Apart from the visible flourish that concludes the manufacturing, the piece would possibly work higher as a podcast drama.
But being again within the theater is the context for this quasi lecture by John, a thespian with a capital T. The premise is that this middle-aged actor has been granted, very similar to Greenberg, a gig of his personal devising throughout this smooth relaunch of dwell efficiency.
“Try this factor you’ve at all times dreamed of doing,” John remembers being advised with a shudder. Artistic freedom will be harrowing. However the result’s a curious little tackle he’s titled “In Reward of Lesser Issues.”
In style reasonably than excessive tradition is what’s on John’s thoughts as a result of it’s how he managed to make it by means of what he calls his “confinement.” He alludes to a “disaster” “of unprecedented scope,” of which nobody was “exempt.” However the pandemic isn’t specified or dwelled upon.
John’s woes, like most of ours, predate the protracted disaster du jour. Marriage is his matter, however earlier than delving into his personal state of affairs, he provides some energetic ideas on two outdated motion pictures that started as performs, “The Seven Yr Itch” and “Any Wednesday.”
Nobody has to remind him that these aren’t cinematic works of the very best order. But it surely’s their entertaining mediocrity that he finds so enlightening.
Specifically, he’s fascinated with the assumptions they reveal about marriage. “The Seven Yr Itch,” Billy Wilder’s 1955 movie that has been immortalized for the picture of Marilyn Monroe standing on a subway grate together with her white costume billowing in all instructions, locations an erotic dream earlier than a person whose married life has settled into slumberous routine.
The message that domesticated ardour inevitably grows stale is without doubt one of the classes that John attracts from the film. However the extra necessary one, embodied within the sensual aid Marilyn finds within the cooling subway gust, is that if our pleasures inevitably fade, so too do our sweltering issues.
“Any Wednesday,” the 1966 display screen model of Muriel Resnik’s play a few lady (Jane Fonda) in love with a married lout, suggests to John a special ethical about marital unions. May a husband and spouse who’ve found the unflattering reality about their relationship discover a solution to regenerate the outdated magic?
That’s the likelihood that John desires to impart to us, a picture of ambiguous hope, symbolized in “Any Wednesday” as a bouquet of helium-filled balloons. His personal marital story isn’t the stuff of romantic comedy. Certainly, it could be extra in line with the darker works of August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov and Samuel Beckett, all of whom John drolly guarantees to keep away from.
“A Shot Rang Out,” directed by Tony Taccone, has beautiful prose cadences, droll semantic distinctions and finely noticed cultural and psychological insights. However the play is held again by two vital issues.
The primary is the way in which Ivers’ efficiency accentuates the synthetic tone of the writing. John, a perpetually performing ham, is flawed as a person and unreliable as a narrator. However as an alternative of permitting us time to find the character’s deficiencies, Ivers exaggerates them with pretentious intonation and artsy mannerisms.
Why would any creative director give this man carte blanche to reopen a theater? Except maybe the purpose was to show the actor as cipher. However couldn’t we keep dwelling for that?
For the play to work, the character must be extra theatrically seductive, which is to say extra credible. In my expertise, the phoniest actors are masters of sincerity. The archness of Ivers’ portrayal smacks of a provincial appearing instructor who has been relegated to performing in dusty faculty school rooms and on grocery store traces.
The opposite challenge, endemic in Greenberg’s playwriting, is the overly summary nature of the thematic design. Like so a lot of his performs, “A Shot Rang Out” is constructed alongside parallel nuances which may architecturally serve a Henry James novel however lack the fabric sturdiness to help a satisfying drama. It’s not a query of subtlety, which the stage can accommodate, however obliquity, which appears like an evasion of theater’s confrontational energy.
As ever, it’s a pleasure to expertise Greenberg’s deft choreography of phrases. However as a play inaugurating the return of in-person efficiency, “A Shot Rang Out” fires a clean.
‘A Shot Rang Out: A Play in One Man’
The place: South Coast Repertory, 655 City Heart Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and eight p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; ends Nov. 6
Data: (714) 708-5555 or scr.org
Operating time: 1 hour, 25 minutes