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picture - The InvitationTheater Review

by Harvey Perr

published September 19, 2008

 

The Invitatiton

now playing Off Broadway at the Ohio Theater

through September 27

 

The Invitation is the kind of play you’re either going to love or hate. Love it or hate it, you’ll probably do so for the same reason: in its attempt to shock, disturb, and disorient, it is, by self-proclamation, a loathsome play. Its author, Brian Parks, has a voice – make no mistake about that – and, even though that voice is far too shrill for this reviewer’s taste, it makes him a playwright worth attending to. For one thing, he writes with dizzying verbal ferocity and, when it filters through, a murderous neo-Shavian clarity. The key word here is “murderous.”

 

Parks throws us into a dinner party whose guests are Tchaikovsky-sensitive, ‘good wine’-imbibing, bourgeois intellectuals who read all the latest New York Times-approved literary achievements and are, as a result, more and more removed from reality (or maybe it’s all that wine!).  Although most people I know who read a lot seem more in tune with the times than not, I will give Parks his prejudices, since these characters are ripe for the sort of savage satire he heaps upon them. The problem here is that if the dialogue is meant merely to satirize these dinner guests, we get the point long before he seems to. But if the brutal language is meant to be listened to and heard, then Parks is not being well-served by his director, John Clancy – usually and dependably one of Off Off Broadway’s real treasures – who has the actors run a marathon race through all the verbiage, breathlessly keeping pace, often overlapping each other, until it all gets jumbled together and we eventually stop hearing anything.

 

But, at the moment when one is totally exasperated, the central character stops the music, which is constant, and goes off to murder his wife – who is admittedly very much deserving of her fate – and then comes back with enough blood on him to suggest that he has sloshed through the deceased’s entrails, and yet, the time comes not for real terror but, instead, for more philosophical meditation. I will not give away the ending, but its only virtues are that it is unexpected and, better yet, it brings the play to its welcome finale.

 

One word about the play’s victim. I was quite willing to strangle her myself after a mere five minutes, she was that vicious and abrasive. I do not know if that means that the actor was pitch-perfect in her characterization, or if her performance was just totally lacking in any kind of subtlety. But the actor is not fully responsible; Clancy is partly to blame for not allowing her to locate the woman behind the shrew’s mask. It is also the problem with the play. These are not really people. They are the playwright’s pawns.  And that, too, may explain why, in the end, we stop hearing what they are saying.

 

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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