Some critics find it unbearable that Sarah Ruhl is now an official “genius playwright”. They don’t like Ruhl’s output so far, and her lofty status means her plays never have to get any better. And since Ruhl is still young, these veteran critics are now condemned to endure her soft-focus magical realism for the rest of their natural lives.
Life’s too short for bad playwriting! But can anyone really accuse Ruhl of stagnation? Eurydice came before her breakthrough The Clean House, which was concurrent with her much more ambitious Passion Play, a Cycle at Arena Stage in 2005. I don’t know much about her current Dead Man’s Cell Phone, but it just finished up a sell-out, extended run at Woolly Mammoth. I think the future looks bright.
I can’t say the same for my personal unbearable playwright: Adam Rapp. I don’t find any redeeming element in his repugnant plays, yet they keep coming to greater and greater acclaim. His last major outing, Essential Self-Defense, was panned by Martin Denton but praised by everyone else, including Marian Seldes!
Denton’s review really chilled me. It seems Rapp plays “the 9/11 card” in Essential Self-Defense. Heather Goldenhersh asks, “What’s my motivation?” Rapp responds: “9/11.” It’s George W. Bush as Lee Strasberg and it’s unacceptable.
Just as loathsome was Rapp’s use of the “AIDS Revenge Plot” in the preposterously Pulitzer-nominated Red Light Winter. Since when are decades-old, right-wing urban legends acceptable narratives for major theatre works? I really can’t take Adam Rapp seriously because of his ignorant and careless plotting of Red Light Winter.
Nevertheless, Rapp will be back in the fall with American Sligo at Rattlestick Theater. Notice that Rattlestick’s publicity materials are on a first-name-basis with their exclusively white male playwrights.
I don’t see anything immediately objectionable about American Sligo or its professional wrestling-slash-kitchen sink drama plot. Maybe Rapp won’t stagnate after all.
I don’t know. Instead of holding out hope, I’ll ask you all the question: what offensive, cliched trope will Rapp throw into Sligo as an important part of the plot? Sligo has a son who died from mixing Pop Rocks and Coke? Sligo’s wrestling career is outsourced to India? Sligo hires a Chinese prostitute and gets SARS? (Not likely; it’s an all-white cast.)
There’s so much disappointment to look forward to. I still believe in Sarah Ruhl. Rapp is the one I fear I’ll be tormented by for the rest of my natural life.