by Harvey Perr
published March 4, 2008
now playing Off Off Broadway at the Flea
through April 5
It would be bad enough if Beau Willimon had only trivialized one of the great tragedies in American history, the plight of the
victims of Hurricane Katrina; but the bigger question, for me, is how his play Lower Ninth ever got past Playwriting 101
without serious admonitions from his teacher. Just giving your characters names and then
having them say important-sounding things does not a play make and, if it’s the surreal you’re after, then where is that tone, in terms of
theatrical language, that separates it from reality? And if it’s not reality, why use images from a real event without mentioning the event
itself? These are some of the questions I would ask, if I were that teacher, at any rate.
As it is, this play just meanders in a stream of overwrought speeches (presumably the metaphysical questions on the minds of two
dying people and one dead person), a quality that is duplicated by Daniel Goldstein’s direction, which also meanders, with none of the
momentum or drive that might have propelled any play into some kind of theater experience.
And since I have seen the excellent work that James McDaniel and Gbenga Akinnagbe are
capable of, and that I instinctively feel Gaius Charles could achieve, Goldstein must be held responsible for the strained, posturing, one-dimensional, audience-pandering performances on display.
Lower Ninth may not be the worst play of the season – bad theater experiences tend to blur into one another – but, if it
isn’t, it is in serious contention for the honor.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com