Friday, August 14, 2009

The Play's the Thing!

Reading across literary disciplines--especially reading plays--is key to the development of prose fiction writing. The whole Show, Don't Tell adage applies as does the nature of dialogue, plotting, pace, and the demands of structure. The added bonus of reading a play is being able to experience how an author's words and characterizations from the page come to life--or don't--upon the stage.

I recently attended exceptional premieres at the renowned Williamstown Theatre Festival. But the play I can't stop thinking about was an abstract, existential, thought-provoking gem artfully staged and performed by The Chester Theatre Company, a very small regional theater in the Berkshires. Bravo!

A Body of Water by Lee Blessing is a puzzling story with unlikely narrative twists that are poignant, amusing, and at the same time, truly frightening. The premise is this: An attractive, middle-aged couple wakes up one day to find themselves in a living room facing spectacular views of hills and a lake. The trouble is, they don't know how they got there, who they are, or the nature of their relationship. Over the course of five scenes and the crisp, snappy dialogue of three actors, the playwright philosophically probes the tenuous realities of memory and identity, life and love. In the end, the questions asked by Blessing--more than the answers--are what make this play linger in your mind long after you've left the theater. If you can't see the fine performance at Chester, I'd recommend giving the play a read. As a reader and/or a writer, you'll be riveted.

Photo "Home by The Sea" (Ocean Drive, Newport, RI) by Kathleen Gerard