- The play (Laura can provide title and performer) was the coming-of-age story of a gay man. The actor was quite convincing as a number of characters, as well as as himself (one assumes it is autobiographical; it follows the form, but on that anon) at ages ranging from 9 to 27. The gradual realization that he is gay; guilt, slow acceptance, then celebration and eventual reconciliation with confused (but loving) parents.
What set it above most work in this plotless genre was the humour. Starting with the young boy's insistence on being Wonder Woman when playing superheroes with his friends, the character is charming in his naivity about himself and the story of his self-actualization has moments that had me laughing out loud.
- My (overly?) critical nature: Lately, a running joke (with more than a hint of truth to it, I fear) between Laura and I has to do with the "fact" that I "never like anything." Pulp Fiction and For Great Gatsby come immediately to mind. I've denied it (and provided examples), but I've started monitoring myself, to see whether there might not be some truth to the charge - I sure as hell to want to be one of those old cranks, finding nothing but fault wherever he goes, nor even come across as one.
So I was a bit nervous about seeing this play (the writer/performer) is one of Laura's teachers) and hoping I would, in fact, enjoy; fearing I wouldn't, and be unable to surpress the urge to carp and criticize. It was with more than a little relief that I quite enjoyed myself.
- It was a strange feeling to realize that Laura's teacher is quite a bit younger than I am.
- Nevertheless, I did find one significant fault with the play - or at least, with the form of the play.
As I mentioned above, it had no real plot, no conflict. The protagonist was unhappy with his sexuality - about that, and masturbation, his church and school told him little more than, "Don't DO IT!" and "Don't BE IT!"; he felt unable to talk to his parents; he was isolated from his peers. But there was no overt prejudice to deal with - no one beating him up, his family didn't throw him into the street.
This strict, autobiographical style (it's conceivable, of course, that it more a work of fiction than I believe it to be) lacks one thing that succesful fiction must (almost) always have: conflict. The traditional structure, where the protagonist must strive to solve - and fail, and fail, then finally succeed - is traditional precicely because that structure provides the audience with more than just identification to maintain its interest. If we know the protagonist is telling us a story, about himself, and that he has a sense of humour, we don't necessarily need to find out "what happens next".
The guy succeeded reasonably well, because he is quite witty, and a good caricaturist - but still, it is only a "tale", rather than a "story" and so of only limited interest - if we don't like, if we don't sympathize with the lead, he's not going to hold our interest.
- Discussing this with Laura (or rather, pontificating about it at Laura; the dope, as it sometimes will, led me to an expansive place, instead of my normal, quiet corner), I thought of John le Carre's Absolute Friends, a novel I am re-reading because it is so good I want to write something substantial about it for my website. Le Carree's book has three main threads - the first, a story of a strange and mostly long-distance, but very intense friendship between two men, youthful radicals coming of age in the late 1960 and early 1970s, whose paths lead them both into Le Carree's word of espionage; the second, is a powerful endictment of that world and of the imperial politics (once British, now American) that continues to treat real human beings as abstractions, pieces on a board that can be eliminated without the mearest shiver of conscience.
The backdrop of the second "story" is the 2nd Gulf War, just "past". Le Carree's anger and outrage is palpable, but kept under control, as the author never deviates from the needs of fiction.
The third, of course, is the plot- (and character) -driven narrative thread itself, the intrigues of two double-agents, stealing secrets from the Soviets, then retiring, then coming back together for one last, apparently noble, job - enemies appear and we are even treated to chase scenes and violent interrogations.
Point being: The narrative is far richer, the intellectual content far more complex, the reader's empathy far more engaged, because we not only want to find our who the characters are and how they got that way, but because we want to find out what they are really up to and whether or not one will betray the other.
- Real point being: two many of my own stories lack that structure; it is a flaw in my own work.
All right. It's late. My body hurts (despite not making it out to the rink this morning. I need to go to bed.
I wonder whether I'll be embarassed by this post in the morning.