On The Arts Fuse, I review Emily Kaye Lazzaro's Three currently running at the Boston Center for the Arts. The play, directed by A. Nora Long, and presented by Boston Public Works, is, sadly, a huge disappointment. For several months, I have championed the mission of Boston Public Works, a theater company centered around a collective of playwrights producing their own work (see my 2014 interview with four of BPW's member playwrights), however, with Three I saw what may be the weakest script I have ever seen receive a full, professional production. Prior experience is that similarly bad scripts never get further than a staged reading or student production, so even though I had seen my share of bad plays this season, nothing prepared me for the cheap plot devices, characters who are no more than one-dimensional stereotypes, and pretensions to social relevance.
In truth, Three is not much of a play at all, but an anthology of “very special episodes” (possibly season finales) of an unproduced television or web series. Many young playwrights seem to be going this route. It may be too soon to tell if this trend is good for television or the web, but it’s certainly not good for the stage, even though Lazzaro has a good ear for turning the vernacular of her generation into pseudo-naturalistic dialogue.
[...]Lazzaro makes an effort to label Three a feminist work, but she sets the bar pretty low – this is feminism as brand identity with little political or social commitment. Yes, the play is about three women and was written by a woman, but the three characters are passive. They never take an active role – they don’t even take a reactive role; life just happens to them. Maybe there are people who would be shocked to learn that there are women who enjoy both alcohol and penises, but I doubt they attend fringe theater productions. Moreover, I know of 20-something women in my immediate social circles who are quirkier, wittier, funnier, more socially aware, and who lead more interesting lives than the females in Three Perhaps Gen-Xers and baby boomers will come away thinking that they have learned something about the millennial generation, but it is like going to an Olive Garden restaurant for authentic Italian cuisine. There are excellent contemporary plays written by women, featuring all-female, or mostly female, casts – I’ve reviewed some – but Three isn’t one of them.
I dubbed Three a "vanity project" -- a label to which fellow playwright, Andy Boyd objected:
@IanThal saying that she wrote the play to pad out her CV feels unnecessarily mean. She has an mfa. This is her primary art form.— Andy Boyd (@andyboydtalks) June 15, 2015
@andyboydtalks I am paid to write 30K+ words of theater criticism per year & I'm a playwright. I know a vanity project when I see it.— Ian Thal (@IanThal) June 15, 2015
@IanThal that doesn't mean you have to like it or even that it's good, but her writing is not a vanity project to pad out her main thing.— Andy Boyd (@andyboydtalks) June 15, 2015
@andyboydtalks Sorry you feel that way. Maybe the MFA was to pad out the CV. It's the worst script I've seen get a professional production.— Ian Thal (@IanThal) June 15, 2015
@andyboydtalks Seeing plays like this once more leaves me incredulous as to whether MFAs signify dedication to craft.— Ian Thal (@IanThal) June 15, 2015
@andyboydtalks I'm aware of her MFA & mentioned it in first draft of review; dropped in the final draft. MFAs are not special snowflakes.— Ian Thal (@IanThal) June 15, 2015
@andyboydtalks That's not my problem. The question is only "Did I make a fair and reasoned evaluation of the play on its own terms"?— Ian Thal (@IanThal) June 15, 2015
@andyboydtalks Also not my problem. My job as a critic is to defend the art form against its worst practitioners, not coddle them.— Ian Thal (@IanThal) June 15, 2015
@andyboydtalks Simple. Read my review and see why I call it a "vanity project." Decide if I made my case. It's not about being "mean."— Ian Thal (@IanThal) June 15, 2015
@IanThal also I respect that sometimes loving an art form means hating bad versions of that art form.— Andy Boyd (@andyboydtalks) June 15, 2015
Read the full review on The Arts Fuse and decide for yourself if I made my case.