Field Notes From A BOA Virgin: Program 1 And Program 2, Together At Last

Annie Paladino continues her chronicle of this year’s BOA Festival. Anything you want to share about the Bay Area Small Theater Experience? Let us know! We’ll be looking to fill some blank space after Annie gives us her capper article next week. And we know there is plenty of stuff going on out there. Let the world know too!

Another week down — and one to go! Actually, for Program 2, we’ve just got two performances left. Sniff.

This week I give you some thoughts, musings, and observations about the two Programs as counterpoints and/or complements to each other. And, maybe more importantly, I invite those of you who have seen both Programs to share your thoughts on the matter! Commenting is fun.

Right from the first dress rehearsal for Program 2, I was struck by how overpoweringly female our Program is (as were many others). As I’ve already noted, there are two plays with casts of just two women — in one, they are sisters (The Bird Trap), while in the other, lovers (A Game). Right there, you’ve got more types of female relationships than are typically portrayed in any one production on the American stage. Maybe Baby is definitely woman-centric. It follows three women (one single, one with a female partner, one with a male partner) as they approach the decision to conceive a child. Of the remaining two pieces in Program 2, I.S.O Explosive Possibility explores a kaleidoscope of female experiences, equating their branching life paths with the differentiation of stem cells — certainly focusing on women. The only slight outlier here is Death to the Audience, a clever meta-theatrical morsel which kicks off the evening — but then again, maybe the exception proves the rule.

On Saturday evening, I finally (finally!) saw Program 1 — and was kind of bowled over by how thematically different it felt from Program 2. Program 2 is, to grossly oversimplify, the Sex and Violence show. This is pretty obvious from a few of the pieces: The Three Little Dumplings Go Bananas features more colorfully violent imagery than probably all the other shows combined (including matricide represented by a surprisingly disturbing sandwich dismemberment), plus a bit of (albeit weird) heat between the Third Dumpling and the Mailman; Brainkill starts out with a placidly-argued plan to kill people and take their stuff and only gets more morally bankrupt from there; and In Bed begins with a hot-and-heavy drunken make-out between a man and woman on their third date (made all the more intense by the close quarters of the theater) and culminates in the reveal that one of them is a child molester. But even the other plays somehow seem to fit. Cello is quiet and exceedingly delicate in comparison to its Program-mates, but the specter of danger and death looms large (particularly in the form of the cellist/sister on stage). And though The Seagull Project is, on the surface, ebullient and full of life, the violence and adolescent infatuations of its source material permeate every moment (Constantin’s violent and obsessive tendencies are foregrounded in the small bits of text included in the piece).

What do you think? Agree/disagree? Am I full of shit? Missing the point? What other common threads or parallels did you observe? These things are interesting to me for more than just rhetorical reasons — as a snapshot of local Bay Area theater artists, BOA is particularly well suited to tell us something about what we (as a theater community) want to talk about, about what’s on our (collective) minds.

So…women, sex, and violence? Jeez, guys.

Please please discuss in the comments — or if you haven’t seen both Programs, what are you waiting for? There’s only one weekend left!

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