New Central Works play takes on corporate imperialism.
Central Works imagines the making of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Tis the season for fall picks.
Central Works remakes Moby-Dick as a musical about radical conservationists in the 1970s.
Three messed-up daughters convene after their cruel mother’s death in Enemies: Foreign and Domestic at Central Works.
Well, this is what I was greeted with in my inbox after
S.F. Mime Troupe writer Michael Gene Sullivan whips up a satire about a revolutionary baking circle for Central Works.
Shakespeare’s cool and all, but the cultural legacy of Bram Stoker is incalculable, especially for someone who’s really only known for one book. (He wrote others, but how many can you name?) Sure, he based the character on Count Dracula very loosely on a 15th century historical figure (although there’s some debate about how much he knew or cared about that and how much has been projected onto his work by enthusiastic scholars and fans), but what we think of when we think of Dracula is entirely Stoker’s invention. For that matter, our whole conception of vampires in general is inextricably tied up in Stoker’s imagination, though certainly it was influenced by folk tale and some earlier, lesser known vampire tales of the 1800s, like Carmilla and Varney the Vampire. It’s a safe bet that if Stoker had never written Dracula, the vampire craze in popular culture over the last century-plus would never have happened.
Central Works does nothing but new plays developed collaboratively between the cast and creative team, most but not all of them written by company codirector Gary Graves. Every show is either a premiere or a revival of one of the group’s previous original plays. Its latest show, The Lion and the Fox, is a relative rarity—a sequel, or rather a prequel, to another Graves play from past seasons, Machiavelli’s The Prince. It’s not quite without precedent: In 2012 the company presented its first trilogy, Richard the First, the middle part of which was Graves’s 2003 play Lionheart.
It’s always baffling to me when someone ascribes a poor review of a show to some kind of preexisting personal grudge on the part of the critic. On the one hand, I understand it: When you don’t want to consider that criticism of your work or the work of someone you love might be valid, you look for any reason you can possibly think of to discount it. The critic just doesn’t understand, the critic must have been having a bad day, or the critic must have it in for you. Either of the first two might be valid, although not nearly as often as people want to think, but the third is just nonsense. And it’s by far the one I hear most when someone writes in to complain about a review. In fact, someone recently commented on my review of Chance saying that if I described a freestanding nonfolding chair as a folding chair, it must be because I was lying to try to scare people off from the show.
I can’t speak for all critics everywhere, and thank goodness I don’t have to, but I never, ever go to a show with the intention of trashing it. It just doesn’t happen. I go to a lot of theater—sometimes 120 shows a year—and yet there are a lot more shows that look interesting that I can’t possibly get to, because I’m just one man and I have to spend some time at home with my lovely wife and our lovely dog. So I have to choose carefully what I go to see, and I’m not going to pick something that I have no reasonable expectation that I’ll enjoy. Life’s too short for bad theater. Obviously, despite my best efforts to pick stuff that looks good, I’m going to see some clunkers from time to time. It’s an occupational hazard. But I always want them to be good, and if I give a show a poor review it’s always because I had hopes for it and am disappointed that it wasn’t better. Why would I go somewhere with the intention of having a bad time? It doesn’t even make sense.
Nobody would want the above to be an intro to a review of their show, because after all that you know it’s not going to be a terribly positive one. But I thought of this anew when I went to see Central Works’s Pitch Perfect, because from time to time a play is just going to rub you the wrong way. I was in a perfectly good mood when I went to see the show, it’s a company whose work I follow and find interesting, and the actors are all people I like. But within 10 minutes after the play began, I was wishing I hadn’t come.