Autopilot

Remember, kids: once you find a pattern in your life that leads to some level of success, keep repeating that pattern! Have you made money mining coal? Mine some more coal! Mine it until until it’s gone! Keep your life on autopilot!

I mentioned last decade that I’m apprehensive about successful playwrights who have no incentive to improve their work. To some extent, it’s possible for them to live on autopilot. The same character types, the same mechanics, and the same themes—all strip-mined from the same mountain.

That’s why I was initially encouraged by the description of Adam Rapp’s The Hallway Trilogy. It used a new, gimmicky structure! Even if all three of the sorta-interconnected full-lengths were written on autopilot, at least they were being combined in a new way. And one of the plays was out-and-out science fiction; that’s a novelty I can endorse!

But if reviews are to be believed, there’s nothing new here. The structure adds nothing and Rapp’s near-future dystopia is incoherent. That is, if reviews are to be believed—could these critics be the ones on autopilot, merely recycling the same criticisms they’ve had about Rapp for years? In a way, they sure are

Moving to another Playwright I Don’t Like, the Village Voice’s Alexis Soloski saw Neil LaBute’s latest play in London and didn’t find anything new in it. In fact, she believed even the trajectory of the play will be on autopilot:

In all likelihood, In a Forest, Dark and Deep will wash up on our own shores next season (likely at MCC). But we ought to want better from our theater.

But again, can we trust the critic? Is Soloski just repeating the same criticisms as she has in the past? Or could both she and LaBute be on autopilot? Who isn’t on autopilot? Is anyone?

Four years ago, someone brought a sign to an anti-war protest that read “I Can’t Believe We Still Have To Protest This Crap.”

A sign just as applicable today as it was then. We fight wars on autopilot. Why should we do differently on our stages?

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