“M” is for miserable at the Huntington’s new play

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.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

6 thoughts on ““M” is for miserable at the Huntington’s new play

  1. Pingback: Huntington Theatre ends season on a high note | Marjorie Arons-Barron

  2. Claudia Schwartz

    How anyone can say that this piece was poorly written is beyond me. You may not agree with its content, but the writing was wonderful. I agree with Marjorie Arons-Barron. The theater piece (I hesitate to even call it a play) was–and probably still is–awful. A third grade class could have and would have done a better job in the writing, directing, and acting.


  3. EGilde

    There are few things in the world less pleasant to read than bad criticism. I don’t mean negative criticism, mind you. Writing often gets a surge of electricity when he or she witnesses a work of art that inspires passionate feelings of any kind. Negative reactions are of course included, and insightful analysis often springs out of those feelings.

    The handful of sentences that you’ve strung together and posted here are despicable in content and embarrassing as writing. I’d say that it read like it was composed by my teenage cousin except for the fact that my cousin actually knows how to write.

    You don’t make a single point about a play which, love it or hate it, has much to discuss. There is much to consider in the story, how it was adapted, why it may have been adapted that way, the staging, the design, the projections, the performances, and on and on and on. Which of these topics did you tackle in your write-up?

    Not a single one.

    No analysis, no reasoned critique, and actually very little evidence that you even saw the show. What little background information you got is clearly the result of a quick glance at the dramaturgical notes. You seem to have devoted your time racking your brain for sassy little zingers, none of which actually have any zing to them.

    The result is a combination of hate, ignorance, and laziness. Congratulations.

    You speculate that the playwright must be a local and a friend of the Huntington. A simple internet search could show you that Mr. Landry has garnered numerous accolades for a large body of innovative writing. He is a unique theatrical mind that the Boston area is exceedingly lucky to have, and adds as much thoughtfulness and socio-politcal commentary to his adaptations as he does camp and loving parody.

    You say that you are a theatregoer, and I applaud you for that. I am, too. I think that M is a daring piece of theatrical inventiveness, and the fact that the Huntington is producing something this fresh and unique is miraculous. It’s full of brave performances, dazzling designs, and a script that is several acrobatic feats unfolding simultaneously. It is a confession of the fears and frustrations of the creative process and the need to break from free from the conventions that trap us. It is a hilarious play with a dark center, and a terrifying play that has silliness emanating from its pores. It is a bold new play full of incredibly smart references to a cinematic gem and a vibrant adaptation that breaks the mold of its source and emerges as a piece of art that is important, essential, and absolutely of the moment.

    If you disagree, that’s fine. But back up your words with something resembling a thought. You should be ashamed by what you wrote.


  4. Nancy Nizel

    So tell me how you really felt. It sounds like a horrendous evening…and you stayed for the whole thing. Good job. I hope you at least had a good dinner.


  5. The comments are accurate about the play. However, I would add that there were some bright spots, though hard to see given the overall nature of the production. I thought the acting was good, in particular that of the playwright near the end. It was not the actors’ fault this fell on its face..


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