We left the Calderwood Pavillion in the South End tonight thinking that Ryan Landry’s “M” could be by far the worse play we’ve ever seen, at the Huntington or anywhere else.
My husband and I, who love theater and have attended productions of all kinds and quality in cities near and far, have been loyal subscribers to the Huntington Theatre for more than 30 years, appreciating it as a more pleasurable alternative to the over-the-top American Repertory Theater back in the day. Our friends, who are also regular and discriminating theater goers, had no doubt. This was the worst play they had ever seen. And one of Boston’s most illustrious arts critics, emerging from the theater at the same time, was in total agreement. Even if you have tickets, don’t waste your time.
A spoof on Fritz Lang’s classic noir movie M, playwright Landy is said to have found his calling in New York’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company and his home in the world of the “indisputably bizarre.” Moving beyond the mashup adaptions of his earlier productions, he wanted here to “take the road never travelled.” He should have stayed home. His attempted satirization of many cinematic devices that have become conventional, and use of eye popping, cartoon-like staging, quickly become a bore. In Landry’s hands, turning the noir masterpiece M into a romantic comedy does not create skillful parody, but self-indulgent exhibitionism.
The preoccupation of the play is the relationships between and among the roles of the playwright, the director, the actors and the audience. Pirandello, creator of Six Characters in Search of an Author, must have been rolling over in his grave. I understand why there was no intermission to the 90-minute play. If given a break, most of the audience would have tried to escape.
A few audience members were overheard speculating that the playwright must be a local and a friend of either the artistic or the administrative director of the Huntington. Otherwise why would they have put on this performance? Ryan Landry has been a writer, director and performer for decades. I wonder if he has ever had to be a member of an audience suffering through an experience like this.
Yesterday’s painful blown save by Joel Hanrahan in the ninth inning was a joyful walk in the park compared to this evening just a few blocks away, at theater in the South End.
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