Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bruja, at the Magic

(Sabina Zuniga Varela in the title role of the Magic Theatre's production. Photo by Jennifer Reiley.)

Well, after my Crowded Fire piece, which was more amateur close read than theater review, I've swung in the opposite direction for my article about Bruja, at the Magic. Pull quotes abound, as if I'd tailor-written it for the theater's publicity department.

I know some critics who pride themselves on avoiding praise that's easy for publicists to lift out of context and paste into an advertisement, and for good reason. Writing sentences like "Luis Alfaro and Loretta Greco have done it again" makes me feel a like a hack, as if I were simply giving the theater exactly what it wanted, rather an outside observer who writes to serve my readers.

At the same time, I did feel strongly about this show, and if pithy, ad-ready sentences draw audiences, then I might not have a problem with that. Ideally, every review I write would be a study in original diction and lively syntax, overflowing with deep critical insight. But I try not to expect full-time quality on freelance pay. 

After a slew of mediocre productions the past couple months, Bruja, which reimagines Euripides's Medea, and God of Carnage reminded me why I do what I do. Bruja's anagnorisis, or tragic revelation, gave me a feeling I'd only previously experienced watching Sunset Boulevard—specifically the scene in which Max (Erich von Stroheim) reveals that he's not just Norma's (Gloria Swanson's) butler; he's also her ex-husband. 

(Stroheim, William Holden and Swanson in the Billy Wilder classic.)

In each instance, the revelation made my stomach churn; in one sudden moment, I felt nauseated. Perhaps I'm a masochist—one friend even teased me recently for calling another play with horrific moments "a great night of theater"—but this is what I go to the theater for: to feel things deeply. I might have expressed those deep feelings in a trite way in my Bruja review, but I felt them all the same.

Bruja continues through June 24; info here.

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