Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You Need a Dramaturg: "Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark"

Welcome to a new, hopefully semi-regular post: "You Need a Dramaturg." I think I got the idea for it originally after the first round of snow this winter, when I laughed to myself that the city, with its unplowed streets and sidewalks, needed a dramaturg. But then I thought it may too confrontational and could offend people, so I decided against starting it.

Until now.

Today, all the reviews of the $65 million musical Spiderman: Turn off the Dark came out. And you know what was a constant theme throughout all the reviews?

Not "You Need a Dramaturg," no, not in so many words. But this:

"It’s the storytelling, stupid" from the LA Times

"The much-told woes of “Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark” boil down to a problem that has similarly ensnared far humbler new musicals: an incoherent story" from the Chicago Tribune

"True, signature Taymor touches like airborne puppets, elaborate masks and perspective-skewing sets (George Tsypin is the scenic designer) are all on hand. But they never connect into a comprehensible story with any momentum." from the NY Times

What do those quotes all have in common? That the story of Spiderman is, in a word, fucked. Or at least incomprehensible.

What do we go to theater for? The story. Yes, even if the story seems non-apparent, even if we're seeing a non-narrative work, it's the story that brings us in.

And so. For all that $65 million, you'd think they could have found a few thousand to throw a dramaturg's way to you know, make sure the story shown through. Or help them find the thing in all the flying and stunts and stage magic mumbo-jumbo.

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