Would it not seem logical if a theatre company invites a critic to attend its shows that the company would seat that critic in a good seat? A prime location with unobstructed views, where the critic could obtain the fullest, most positive impression of the creative team’s earnest work? With some companies in the North Texas region, the opposite seems true.
When I attended Undermain Theatre’s last production, Ghost Sonata, I found myself seated at the extreme far left end of the seating gallery in their awkward, rambling space, on the second row, behind a large person who blocked my view of the few scenes that took place in our vicinity. Unable to see the show or make any reasonable assessment of its direction, arc or overall impression as a work of art, I could not review it, unless I pretended it was a radio play.
As soon as I got the press release for their current production, Profanity, I spoke up in response, asking for a decent seat in the center viewing section, promising to come alone so as not to deprive any important person of a seat with my Plus One comp. I was assured I would be given a better seat. When I arrived, I found to my dismay I was now seated on the far right end of the seating gallery, four rows up. My vision of any action on stage from the center to stage left was totally blocked by a huge column. The four rows of people in front of me, plus the huge column, prevented me from seeing any action down stage at all, except for the tops of tall actors’ heads.
Accordingly, here is my impression of this show:
Bruce DuBose and Shannon Kearns-Simmons appear to play versions of roles they have done before, not very interesting. Michael Federico, an able actor and writer, creates the most dynamic, live character in the play with an intriguing arc. Katy Tye plays Kearns-Simmons’ daughter, and she has an annoying voice. Alex Organ, tall fellow that he is, makes several entrances I could see; but most of his scenes seem to take place downstage right. He is an excellent actor, so I imagine he does a good job with his limited role. I could not see if the ensemble created any stage pictures or get any sense of vision with the play’s direction. The sound, lighting and set seem to work efficiently, courtesy of Paul Semrad, Steve Woods and John Arnone. Undermain specializes in creating dream-like, absurd sets. I guess that’s why there are so many file cabinets scattered upstage? A forest of them. Giva Taylor’s costumes fit the era and mood of the play.
I find the play’s title puzzling. Profanity. It appears to have no relationship to its content. I also found it disturbing that playwright Sylvan Oswald gets described in the program as a “trans theater artist who creates plays, texts and publications.” Why does the audience need to know the playwright’s gender orientation? From my limited perspective, I neither heard nor saw anything relating to transgender in the performance, so why mention it? Does the playwright require it? When someone performs an Albee play, he isn’t usually described as “gay playwright Edward Albee”. It’s irrelevant. Nobody’s business.
Profanity. An apt description of the words I spoke under my breath as I trudged in disappointment to my car when the show ended.
Their website is www.undermain.org, if you want to look them up.