Friday, September 14, 2012

Port Out, Starboard Home, by foolsFURY at Z Space

(Angela Santillo, Zac Jaffee -- who isn't actually in the cast --, Jessica Unker, and Benjamin Stuber in the foolsFURY production. Photo by Richard Horatio Nelson.)

My review of Port Out, Starboard Home, or POSH, by foolsFURY, was critical, and in hindsight I wonder if I held the show to too lofty a standard. I had two main criticisms: 1.) that the show took potshots at an easy subject (cruise passengers) and 2.) that the plot's central event wasn't as interesting as the initial development and the denouement. While I don't question my second criticism, I wonder if my first was unfair. I've seen many shows that mocked other sitting ducks -- film noir, 1940s football musicals, Lindsay Lohan -- and I didn't level the same criticism. But I think what let those other shows off the hook was that they were campy. In other words, they ridiculed and loved their subjects; with their exaggerated style, they let me know to not take them completely seriously, which opened them to criticism even as they criticized. POSH takes itself much more seriously. It puts itself in a superior position to what it criticizes -- mai tai-swilling vacationers -- which made me think, "What's next? A satire of Republicans?"

I also wonder if I was more critical because of the venue. Every time I see a show at Z Space, the artistic toast of the town is there, too -- folks whose work I admire and to the best of my ability seek out. That I respect many members of the audience might have made me hold the work to a higher standard.

Followers in New York, the show is coming to your neck of the woods in a couple of weeks; if you see it, let me know what you think!

In San Francisco, POSH continues through Sept. 22; info here.


  1. Thank you for thinking and writing about POSH Lily. I directed, and am in no ways unbiased, but wanted to respond specifically to the second criticism, that the "plot's central event wasn't as interesting as the initial development and the denouement."

    I think this is true, but also intentional. POSH is not a play about that event, any more than, say, Edward Albee's "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia" is a play about a man screwing a goat. It's much more a play about the impact of the event (POSH's ritual / Sylvia's goat screwing...) on the people involved. We don't try to give a simple answer to this question, as the actual personal impact of intentional transformational experiences (from church communion to Landmark Forum) are both varied, and often take a long time to process.

    As for the Mai Tai swilling vacationers, well they are easy to poke fun at. But they are also terribly lonely people trying to make connections. If both things didn't come across in the play we fell short of one of our goals.

    But if you, and any other audience members, were still thinking about the play five days after you saw it, then we succeeded in a more important one.

    Thanks again for your writing and attention!

    Ben Yalom
    Artistic Director, foolsFURY

  2. Hi Ben,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond. It's great when artists -- particularly those who are "in no ways unbiased," as you call it! -- hold me accountable for what I say about them and how I say it.

    I've definitely been thinking about the play since I saw it; reviews that have both praise and criticism are the trickiest but also the most interesting to write. One thing I will add that I didn't make as clear as I could have in my original review was how fantastic the narration was. (I saw the show with one of my students, and that was the first thing she said afterwards.) I think narration usually fails onstage for the obvious reason that audiences want to be shown, not told. But the precise, highly stylized, even poetic delivery (which reminded me of Robert Wilson's work) coupled with how revelatory the details themselves were -- that was just perfect. It was narration made for the stage, that couldn't have worked in a novel -- it was so refreshing to see that device work outside of classic drama.

    I guess what I'm really saying was that I loved that so much that I wanted more of it. I think we're on the same page re: the impact of the ritual event being more important than the event itself; maybe I thought the immediate aftermath didn't tell me as much about who the characters were as the long-term aftermath, which was narrated, did.

    Anyway, we might just differ on this point, but I'm really glad I saw my first foolsFURY show. Break a leg in NY! I look forward to following y'all.