re: the cast
Posted by: Singapore/Fling 10:01 pm EST 02/15/24
In reply to: re: the cast - Chazwaza 05:53 pm EST 02/15/24

My problem, and Newt’s problem, is that Harmon wrote New Yorkers and called them Parisians. Yes, Newt mentions wanting to know more about the French Republic, but it is clear that the core critique is the same as mine: these aren’t French people.

Harmon sets the play in France so he can pull on a couple of real-world events, but otherwise his play has not a trace of Gallic about it. If you don’t see that, sure fine, but to reject the entire premise of the idea with the anti-knowledge of “you don’t know every French person” strikes me as a cop out. You’re hanging on to Newt’s use of “a play about France” as the core focus of your ire, while ignoring the rest of what he wrote.

And now I go down a rabbit hole:

What do writers do? They imagine people. And all of us who work in the industry participate in the imaging of people and in capturing the small details of culture, of humor, of philosophy, of rhetoric, and attempt to render that in three dimensions. Harmon, unfortunately, does not tend to write three-dimensional people. Instead, he writes extended riffs on the same type of person, endlessly warring, self-hating individuals who will never get to the bottom of their own turmoil. Everyone in French Republic could have walked straight over from Franco Prussian War, or Significant Other as it was eventually titled.

And he’s very good at it. His plays sweep you along in the struggles of these terrible people. I actually thought French Republic would be better received, because I thought people would get pulled into the argument about belonging and Israel, especially now, and that his portrayal of anti-Semitism and the struggle to feel safety, as a Jewish person in the modern world, would win out over all of the other issues in the play - but to my surprise, most of the major critics have the same take as I do: it’s a manqué, cobbled together from the parts of better plays.

Often that works with an audience, but for some reason not this time around. Even when I didn’t like it, I thought it was going to be the hit play of the season, but all the ways that it doesn’t quite add up and feel real seem to have overwhelmed the visceral aliveness of its argument.

Alas - and this is very French - the play isn’t good, it’s just not bad.

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