Seasons of Keene: Below the LineCardboard Charlie Productions present Seasons of Keene – Below the Line, at La Mama, featuring two short plays written by Daniel Keene - A Glass of Twilight and Untitled Monologue. Unfortunately this production is an example of when good plays go bad.

 

Keene is a marvelous and intelligent playwright, who writes about disenfranchised people in a manner that is well researched, empathetic, nuanced and alarming. He utilises language in a manner that is both poetic and emotionally raw. This enables producers of his plays a myriad choices and generally gifts audiences with the chance to viscerally experience the lives of people brought low by poverty and lack of opportunity; but unfortunately not with this production.

Director Ben Drysdale perhaps shows inexperience and lack of research with his choices for this production. Needing experience is certainly no failing, but undertaking work that is so beautiful, socially relevant but beyond you, at present, is bound to elicit a strong response. The depth of life experience portrayed within these plays is doubtless a challenge for any one without similar experiences or without the willingness to research those who have. Drysdale makes many theatrical choices that serve to undermine the strength of the two plays presented here. For instance, in both plays, he and the performers, Matt Bourneman and Pat Gordon, choose to render the rhythm of the language flat and monotonous, stripping it of its realism and its poetry almost entirely.

The first play, A Glass of Twilight, is certainly staged more effectively than the second, with simple but successful set and lighting. Drysdale’s use of a live piano accompaniment and blackout between scenes was a terrific and appropriate idea, serving to enhance the mood of the play well. Unfortunately, extending those effects to the second play, Untitled Monologue, was a big mistake. This play consists of many short scenes, with an emotional build-up that should, I believe, illustrate a young man’s decline into alcoholism and violence as prompted by desperation and poverty. The rhythm of this build-up was completely neutered by the constant, repetitious interruption of slow paced, poignant-styled music and darkness. This of course had an effect on performer Matt Borneman, who seemed to be up to the challenge of this character, but consequently had no opportunity to portray the energy or range of emotions his character transitions through. The effect sadly diminishes the meaning and power of this play.

The opportunity to present these two plays in the manner they deserve was lost with this production.  Choosing to produce challenging work should be commendable, but part of accepting that challenge is accepting the outcome which results when the production fails to live up to the work and then moving on to achieve more next time. 


For those unfamiliar with Daniel Keene’s work, if you have already attended this production I would now suggest reading the texts in order to discover their insightful and volatile value as theatrical and social experiences.


A Cardboard Charlie Production
Seasons of Keene – Below the Line
Featuring A Glass of Twilight and Untitled Monologue
Written by Daniel Keene

Venue: La Mama, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Dates: October 3 – October 6, 2007
Times: Wednesday to Saturday at 8.00pm and Saturday at 3.00pm
Duration: 70 mins approx
Tickets: $20 (full) / $10 (conc.)
Bookings: 9347 6142

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