Monday, May 18, 2015

On The Arts Fuse: I Review Jeff Talbott's “The Submission”

On The Arts Fuse I review Zeitgeist Stage Company's current production of Jeff Talbott's play, The Submission a dark and transgressive comedy directed by David J. Miller about a playwright who hires an actress to hide the fact that his play about an alcoholic African-American woman and her card-shark son was actually written by a middle-class gay white man:

Today, many dramatists feel under pressure to represent a more diverse cast of characters, while questioning whether they (or others) have the right to write about people whose experiences are unlike their own. And if they do attempt to jump into other shoes, will it be seen as legitimate or will it be condemned as exploitation? In this script, playwright Jeff Talbott argues that “some guy [sitting] in his middle-class apartment” is capable of imagining other lives, even if there are questions (political, artistic) about whether he has that right.

However, while I admire Talbott's sense of dialogue and the dynamic performance of the actors in this production, I find it flounders on a rather substantial plot hole:

The catch is that The Submission is saddled with too many implausibilities that go well beyond what can be tolerated in either a farce or a satire. It’s one thing to turn a reasonably protective dramatist into a bullying control freak. But Danny is so incurious and dismissive of other people’s experiences, so unaware of the racial coding of the language he uses, that it is hard to imagine he could write anything credible about working-class African-American families. Indeed, all the listicles and YouTube videos with such titles as “Ten Things White People Need To Stop Saying To Their Black Friends” are written for people just like him. How could Emilie, the literary office at Humana, or anyone working on the production possibly conclude that a play written by Danny was an “authentic” portrait of African-American life? Is everybody in the theater world brainwashed to the point that their notion of ‘the real” is rooted in the same pop culture cliches and political correctness strictures absorbed by Danny and Trevor? If that’s the case, Talbott’s script never considers a possibility that darkly and daringly comic. Is Danny really that much of an emotional idiot savant, or does Talbott imagine that the staff of the Humana Festival is haplessly gullible?

Read the rest on The Arts Fuse.

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