Last night I was dragged by my remaining hair to see the creative output of “Grant.” A name that has inspired a quite mixed reactions in all of my predecessors, but tending towards “who the fuck is Grant?” Turns out, he’s a moderately good playwright.
The play is apparently based on a long-running strip in Salient “Brunswick.” But, having saved my brain from certain death by never reading it (Salient) with any thoroughness or regularity, I was quite in the dark about the characters and stories that might appear before me. I knew only that it might be vaguely funny, and that it was a musical.
The set, like most “low-budget” or not-professional theatre sets, was bare. A few boxes, some incidental relieving squares, a door, a set of stairs and a fireman’s pole. There was also an on-stage area for the key musical accompaniment was to sit, staring out past the actors at us the audience. It opened, as you would hope, with a brief musical interlude, to distract you from the appearance on stage of the main character, an imprisoned newspaper reporter. After some “tantalizing” exposition that hints more than reveals, we travel back in time to the events leading to this reporter’s incarceration.
Well, without wanting to give away the whole plot, suffice to say that the play has a very tenuous grip on reality, a healthy disrespect for the fourth wall and a pervasive sense of fun.
The writing was pretty consistently good. There were a few jokes that were a wee bit obvious, and the entire plot was pretty well telegraphed, but in terms of your basic execution, it was solid. There were no real clunkers, and things flowed pretty well. I think that anyone simply relaxing and letting themselves be entertained will find little to complain about. In fact, there are some really great lines. My personal favourite was “Just because you put it to music doesn’t mean it’s not bollocks.” Words to live by. My only slightly complaint is that a few of the jokes were recycled from other places; this isn’t too damning a comment, because they are all well executed. As a brief aside here, there was a great quote in one West Wing episode where one character says “Good writers borrow material, great writers steal it outright.” Certainly this was a thorough borrowing.
On the other hand, I think it was perhaps a bit unfocused. It has some strong elements of satire and political commentary, but these aren’t pushed terribly hard or in a deep way: there are no stunning conclusions or unexpected insights. It mainly picks up and uses the common Daily Show commentaries on the nature of “democracy” and with a few swipes at the US and the war on terror. None of these is really hard-hitting though; the script pulled all it’s punches. So it’s got enough political savvy to know what it’s about, but not enough to really provoke much of a response. Running throughout is also a strong farce element that’s very entertaining, and doesn’t really detract from the satire as written, though I wonder whether less farce could have engendered a more biting wit. So, as it is, I can’t see an obvious way to make it more cutting without significantly changing the tone, something of dubious merit.
In terms of the acting, I felt much the way I had after Chicago, that the casting choice was strong for the secondary parts, but the leads were weak. The two main characters are the reporter Alex and the eponymous bunny. Alex was over acted to a noticeable degree, so that almost everything she said sounded like it was an actor in a play. It might be a bit harsh to say that her main utility on stage was to be easy on the eyes, but there were many times when I had a rueful smile and recollections of even less stellar performances from yours truly. Fitz was a good deal better, certainly more spontaneous. Her main flaw was being off key a few times, and generally not displaying a huge surplus of musical talent.
In contrast, I thought all of the ancillary actors were very good. They sang well and did their little comic bits with aplomb.
The overall production design was very cute. I loved the 2D props! The whole thing moves along very well. There are no real pauses, and the set changes are done swiftly and convey the scene adequately. The lighting was fine, at least to my relatively untrained eye. And the music was certainly passable, in fact I think you could easily find yourself humming it in an elevator if you saw the production more than once.
I’ll just conclude by saying that I found the whole play to be enjoyable and engaging. The faults I’ve noted above are very comfortably outweighed by the clever script, careful production design, catchy music and sheer pervasive fun. For $16 I think you’ll find your time and money well spent. If you plan on testing this statement, I’d get organised soon, as all but one show have sold out so far; a situation which itself speaks for the quality of the production.
And “Hello!” to new friend . Try the veal.