A few weeks ago, in Los Angeles, I saw a show about death. A musical. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, slick and witty as Broadway on tour can be, but in the end heartless. In truth, the Broadway slickness is starting to wear thin. The score is unmemorable. The British accents not quite. I couldn’t banish the memory of the much funnier old British movie made from the same novel—Kind Hearts and Coronets. Well worth seeing.
I’m not sorry I went to see Gentleman’s Guide, though. I love to be inside any theater. The smell of the greasepaint may be a thing of the past, but there is still magic inside theatrical walls. And yes, a musical touring company at the Ahmanson is about as far from experimental as it’s possible to get—but I love the plush, the hush, the scent of gin at intermission, and the sentimental sense of being a part of something old, inclusive, artful and always—even at the Ahmanson—transgressive.
Even so, I wish I could have stayed in Los Angeles long enough to see the next show at the same theater—Suzan Lori Parks’ much more obviously impactful Father Comes Home from the Wars. I taught this text a few years ago—and showed a tiny excerpt that’s on YouTube—but I’ve always wanted to see it staged. Park’s play is also about death—but then I’m tempted to ask, what isn’t? Love and death. Life and death. The cruelty of death in life.
I’m having these thoughts as I contemplate the final stages of making over my drama workshop scenes of love and death into a short play. It seems I am writing a poem for the stage. Spare. Bare. Bones. I hope I find enough sinew to hold the thing together. But then, I’m tempted to ask, when is this not the case?
Pass the gin.