Friday, November 19, 2010
We say “old hag” but a hag is old and ugly by definition, so it is redundant to say “old hag.” Well, until I am old enough to merit that tautological moniker, say, when I am 100, I’d have to be satisfied with a plain hag or a young hag.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
A child walking holding on, hand in hand, to an adult -- mom, dad, or nanny -- is a lovely sight to see. In my neighborhood in New York I see many children walking or skipping with an adult who walks them to school and picks them up when the school is over. It then occurred to me that this is a sight much rarer in suburbia because children are chauffeured to and from school by car, and shopping is done without negotiating crowded sidewalks. The sight brings back the memory of my childhood. I had to stretch my arm high to reach up and clasp the adult’s hand, which was always so big, and I had to skip now and then to catch up with the adult’s gait. There was a wonderful feel of security, the assurance that I won’t get lost. Sometimes, in impatience, the adult will grip my wrist, and I hated that because it made me feel a captive; I insisted on being clasped by hand. I wish I found a medium-sized giant whom I can hold on by hand and recapture that sensation.
“It’s one hour and 40 minutes, without intermission,” says the husband looking up from the playbill, to which his wife responds enthusiastically, “Oh, good.” I hear this kind of conversation quite often in the theater as we wait for the phantom curtain to rise. More and more plays are written to be performed without intermission. By and large they are an hour and a half, the length of the standard feature-length movie. Economy favors shorter plays for better profit. But I feel cheated. In the old days, plays came in three acts with two intermissions. This is the classical form, and three acts are necessary to shape the characters in the first act, to develop the plot in the second, and to create a dramatic resolution in the third. More plays today are written and performed, too, with two or three actors, some just with one, which significantly cut down the production cost. Monologues can deliver good story-telling, but there is no potential for drama without space for interactions among several characters; even with two-handlers, I feel gypped, especially for the kind of money we pay for the ticket. Even classics, written in three acts, are often contracted to be done with one intermission so that the audience can go home early. The contemporary audience’s preference for shorter plays without intermission reflects, no doubt, their shortened attention span. Theater is no place for people who’d rather be entertained in the comfort of their home.