The 2011-2012 theater season is winding down, just a few more productions left before everyone takes a few weeks off to regroup for the start of the new season in the fall. There are several shows we're anxiously awaiting. There are also several shows we have our doubts about, but we have a rather generous wait-and-see attitude about it all and hope we'll be pleasantly surprised.
And then there are several plays that we flat out don't want to see next season. At all. No matter who's producing them. Plays that, except in the hands of the brightest and most talented companies, tend to drag, bore and in general make for a miserable night of theater. Plays that only high schools should mount, as educational exercises. Plays that frigging work our nerves.
To be clear, we're not talking about the writing, we're talking about the productions. Oscar Wilde did a great job of writing The Importance of Being Earnest, for example, but we can't remember the last time we saw a production that really zipped along.
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is brilliant, but it's almost impossible to cast. There just aren't that many six-year-olds that can shoulder the narrative burden.
So, here's our list of plays we really don't want to see next season:
5. No Exit The 1944 existentialist French play by Jean-Paul Sartre just doesn't carry the emotional impact it once did. Maybe we've seen the story revamped and redone too many times, but it holds no allure for us anymore. Sorry, Jean-Paul.
4. Cabaret The 1966 Broadway hit, with its book by Christopher Isherwood, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, has great songs and a great story, but they just take too long to play out. (Yes, like the rest of America, we have a shortened attention span.) We might be persuaded to see a musical revue of the show's songs, but the production as a whole is on our "too much time, too little payoff" list.
3. The Vagina Monologues Eve Ensler's 1996 play is the most recent on our list and the only one that's here solely because of its subject matter. Enough already with the Our Bodies, Ourselves fascination. This is navel gazing, with the gazing aimed at a slightly lower spot of our anatomy. Get over it.
2. The Sound of Music As with Cabaret, the show has great songs, and a great story ... and one too many acts to suit us. Apparently Rodgers and Hammerstein never heard of short and sweet.
1. Our Town Really? Still? Thornton Wilder's 1938 classic might indeed be a classic on paper, but company after company fails miserably to bring it to life onstage. A 1930s stage manager narrating the story of life in an average town in the early 20th century isn't the most exciting way to an evening in the early 21st century. (Especially since everyone in the audience is itching to pull out their cell phone and tweet about how slow the play is going.)
To answer the question from the play, "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it... every, every minute?" Ah, no. Nobody does. Ever. So stop hitting us over the head with it already.