'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Tuesday, October 01, 2002 ]

Well, kids, I haven't been up here for a while--show-type stuff, innat.

Here's a couple of reviews.

The first is from some new reviewer for the Isthmus:

Murder Most Foul.
Broom Street's latest turns ugly
By Veronica Rueckert

"I don't normally like blonde jokes," says Joy, the emotionally unstable coke head in Broom Street Theater's Orange Murder Suit. "They're women jokes." By the close of act three, the real anti-woman joke seems to be the play itself.


It only gets worse from here, kids.

Rob Matsushita reportedly wrote Orange Murder Suit in part to provide multidimensional, emotionally complex roles for women, and the four-actress cast is uniformly strong.

Not quite true. She's refering to the press release we sent out for the show, which actually says:

Matsushita was inspired to write Orange Murder Suit because "the roles for women in theater are often one-note and boring. It’s either a show where a character whines about how she’s going to be single forever, or whines about how she’s going to kill herself, or worse--a show about a woman who whines that she’s going to kill herself if she ends up single forever. It’s repetitive, and it’s a disservice to any actress who wants to do something challenging and interesting. It’s like writers are afraid to give women something interesting to do, because it might offend people politically."

Which, as we'll find out later, is exactly what happened with this reviewer.

The play begins especially well, unfolding as a mystery with Nina (Marcy Weiland) celebrating her murder acquittal with Lynn, her lawyer, deftly acted by Molly Vanderlin.

This is the second review in a row to call Molly deft.

I'd say that she's actually "def," but we're not allowed to say that word any more.

Graceful and streamlined, Matsushita's writing in act one sets the stage for an enjoyable night of theater. As Nina and Lynn banter at a bar after the verdict, wariness turns to trust. And after an old law-school game of questions, (not unlike Tom Stoppard's invention in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), Lynn admits to Nina that--

Okay, here's where I'm cutting her off for a second, because she gives away a moment so huge that it actually negates Molly's huge power monologue.

Another thing, Veronica? Stoppard sort of...um...didn't invent the game of Questions--but you feel free to insinuate that I stole it from him.

Oh, yeah, and it's not actually a game of Questions. See, Questions (at least in the Stoppard play) is where each person involved can only answer in the form of a question.

The Game in Orange Murder Suit is different; only one person is allowed to ask questions, persecuting the other. Slightly different concept.

I hate to split hairs, here, but this paragraph is so sloppy you've left me precious little choice.

Oh, and I also take issue with your "wariness turns to trust" comment. Given what Lynn says at the end of the act--and how Nina answers it...well...

Okay, I'm gonna ask you to be open to the idea that maybe you didn't get it, okay?

Not that you didn't.

Just asking you to be open to it.

Act two is Nina's story: a middle aged mom driven to murder by the brutal killing of her daughter, Julie. Julie's killer is Joy, played unevenly, but with patches of real brilliance by Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris.

Okay, if you think Sameerah's performance was uneven...you weren't watching the show. That's that.

The character is mentally disturbed.

She's a manic depressive. We actually say that in the show.

Not to tell you your job, but...

We actually say that in the show.

Again, asking you to be open to...you know.

Nina wants to see Joy dead, and manages to see the deed through. It's a great scene for Weiland, whose comfortable shoes and prim soccer-mom hairdo evoke Every Mother and just about break your heart.

Yeah, you know how she gets the soccer mom hairdo?

Sameerah rolls her on the floor.



Not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your policework there, Veronica.

Unfortunately, the worst heartbreak comes after intermission, when Matsushita's play develops into a masturbatory horror-fest.

It's Broom Street.

All the shows are masturbatory.

But I'm assuming by this, Veronica--may I call you Veronica?

I'm assuming you mean that I enjoy watching women suffer and be terrified, and that I wrote the whole show so that I could get my rocks off.



Someone broke Veronica's heart.

Who broke Veronica's heart?

We witness [edit--she gives away a yet another big moment here...she's kind of playing dirty now.] Julie is raped, but the crime is queasily excused when Julie declares that, in fact, Joy abused David, so just maybe the whole thing is Joy's fault anyway.

This angers me more than anything else.

The rape isn't excused. At all.

Plus the dialogue she's refering to is said in the heat of the moment--during a fight. You think maybe the characters said some things they didn't mean?

And in case you don't, the characters--not five minutes later--say exactly that.

Not that you weren't paying attention, but...

No. No, you weren't paying attention. You were trying to think up clever things to say in the review while the show was going on. That's not the same thing.

Another word on the my supposed "legitimization" of the rape:

You know, the saying "two wrongs don't make a right" is made fun of so often, that, I think, people really don't think it's true.

Think about it.

Think about how many stories end with revenge and retribution, and how, often, in fiction, two wrongs do make a right for the characters.

Is it because we can't get around the idea that maybe more than one person can do something wrong in the same story?

Watching what could have been a great character drama disintegrate into formula,

Hey, if there are tons of other plays that end the way my show does--can someone send them to me? I've been looking for another reason to masturbate.

where violence against women is apparently played for titillation, you feel that the cast's fine actors have been betrayed.

Ronny, if you think the violence in this show is titillating, that tells me more about you than it does about the show. Not to mention more than your readers really need to know.

There may be a watery message hidden somewhere--something like, say, patriarchy is the origin of all violence--

Wow. I had to look "patriarchy" up.

Mainly because I don't think you know what it means, Rueckert.

So, according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, "Patriarchy" means:

1. A social system in which the father is the head of the family and men have authority over women and children.

2. A family, community, or society based on this system or governed by men.

Okay, simple enough...

How could you get that from my show?

Unless, of course, this is the "message" you wanted the show to have, and when it didn't have it, the show was "bad."

Hey, here's another quote from the press release you seem to have skimmed rather hastily:

Matsushita also asks of the audience, "please don’t look at this show politically; yes, you have to pay attention, and yes, you may be arguing after the show about it, but it’s only meant as a good yarn—that’s it. Don’t look for a meaning that isn’t there."


--but the ethics are so ambiguous and misguided that it's hard to make a strong case for anything but ignorance.

Can someone please tell reviewers that ambiguity is not always a bad thing?

The last act has a bit in common with Bret Easton Ellis' controversial book American Psycho, which ran afoul of women advocacy orginizations. The difference is that American Psycho didn't pretend to be any woman's friend.

Without actually saying it, Rueckert now insinuates that American Psycho was also anti-woman, as opposed to just being about a character that is.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you're the kind of person who reads American Psycho and thinks that Patrick Bateman is a great guy that you want to emulate, well, jeez, aren't you already there?

Do people actually read The Telltale Heart and come away from it thinking that a filmy eyeball is a legitimate reason to kill someone?

Granted, there are worse things in life that being compared to Bret Easton Ellis, but hey:

I'm chalking this up to my shaky history with the Isthmus.

Debra Neff Nathans, when we met, chuckled about me doing this, busting me a bit, saying that she couldn't believe how I tore apart every little detail in this little review, and that I should understand that critics usually have to write these things in less than a day to get them in on time.

I told her that I understand that, but if you don't think it's well thought-out enough to be bulletproof, then you shouldn't put your name on it. (To her credit, Debra told me she thought that was fair.)

(And if you're reading this Debra, first off, Hi! And second, see how personally I could have attacked you? And third, why can't I access your weblog anymore?)

Plus, that also tells me that no matter how much thought you critics put into a review of one of my shows, I definitely put more thought into writing it.

This reviewer clearly took the show personally, and as an attack--so she responded in kind. I think it's lousy of her to try and ruin the show for other people by spoiling all the surprizes, but at the same time, there's nothing I can do about that.

Bottom line: Anyone who thinks that I hate women isn't paying attention to the show.

On to the next review, from The Daily Cardinal:

'Murder Suit' is a real killer
By Corey Gutwillig

When the director first stepped foot out onto the floor, he said with a smile, "Welcome to the inside of Dr. Evil's head."

First off, Hey, Corey:

Welcome to the party, pal!

In case you're just joining us after a round of ego surfing, what this is, is what I like to call...CRITICAL BLOWBACK! (in which we review the reviewers.)

You're probably gonna get off light, here, because you gave me a good review. It's not fair, I know, but neither are most reviewers. Besides, I see by your bio that this is your first review, so I'll take it easy on you.

Second, not that I blame you for not remembering (at all), but what I actually said was:

"Good evening and welcome to Broom Street Theatre. My name is Rob Matsushita, and if the Isthmus is to be believed, to look into my face...is to look into the face of evil."

And then I gave this face:

Only I wasn't wearing the bunny ears.


Unsure of the meaning of this, the audience had no idea what the next one and a half hours would entail. Eagerly, they sat inside this hole-in-a-wall theater located at 1119 Williamson St. The Broom Street theater looks from the outside, like an old garage in someone's backyard. A black-box theater from the inside, with stadium-like seats arranged to form a thrust stage, Broom Street brings mystery and excitement in the world of theater.

I actually like that we're refered to as a hole-in-the-wall theater.

You know why?

Because we ARE a hole-in-the-wall theater!!!

Trust me, Corey, after a few shows with us, the novelty will start to wear off. Just ask anyone else who's reviewed us.

"Orange Murder Suit," is not only wildly disturbing, but also strangely intriguing, not to mention appropriately named. The play begins in a bar where the audience learns that a woman named Nina had just been freed from her trial for murder. There are four women in the entire play, but is centered on this one woman's ordeal of how her daughter was brutally murdered and her sought after revenge for justice. Writer/director, Rob Matsushita, wrote this crime drama to steer away from monotonous works written for women.

See, Veronica? Corey got it. Corey actually read the material we sent him.

The play works backwards. It begins with the outcome and rewinds to how the present came to be. Slowly, tid bits of information such as the title for the play, character flaws and mannerisms are consistently introduced. The audience gets familiarized with the woman who murdered Nina's daughter, played by, Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, who delivers a terrific performance. She plays a cracked out stripper who has a horribly troublesome past and a determined fate exposed by Nina.

Well-caught, Mr. Gutwillig! We actually were wondering if anyone would catch Joy's "determined fate."

The revealing process of the play is well organized, and the story itself is electrifying. It takes a very disturbing and unthinkable twist during the third act, yet still remains enticing and keeps the audience full of anticipation. Disconcerting as this play is, the acting persists in a very real and genuine fashion. It is sincere and demonstrates real life attitudes that are neither trite nor overdone. This show is not for the timid, nor the queasy, but it is surprisingly captivating.

Mr. Matsushita did a tremendous job. "Orange Murder Suit" is extremely well written and comprises a well thought out cast, who is anything but dull and monotonous and for not being paid, these actors and stage hands are remarkable. With no hesitancy, if you don't mind violence, blood or a great portrayal of realism, "Orange Murder Suit" is thought provoking and makes for a eventful evening.

Shows are performed at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Oct. 20.

So there we have it.

There's another review coming from The Clarion, which is the MATC paper (the reviewer himself told me that it's going to be a positive review, which reviewers almost never do), and it seems uncertain whether or not the Wisconsin State Journal will review the show, considering that they've already had an article about the show. (With local theater, particularly Broom Street, it's an either-or kind of deal.)

But, overall, here we are, halfway into the run, and I'm damn happy with how things are going.

I love my cast, I love my crew, I just loves people.

Oh, one last thing--if you come to the show and enjoy it, and you don't know me, please come up to me and tell me. Usually, immediately after the show I'm mopping up blood (and on the 11th I'll be rushing to get things done so I can see Short Stacks), but feel free to come up to me anyway. In the words of everyone's favorite space nerd, I'd love to meet you.

posted by Rob on 11:55 AM | link



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