Creative Loafing Imaginary Stage Company Presents!

Yasmina Reza’s The God of Carnage, about two seemingly civilized couples who meet to discuss the schoolyard brawl between their sons. Unlike Reza’s mostly superficial Art – and somewhat more like her very funny if inconclusive Life X 3 God of Carnage is about the savagery that lurks behind our veneer of decency, and how unstable even the most solid-seeming relationships can turn out to be. In Christopher Hampton’s fine translation from the French, the play is hilarious and wonderfully, unpredictably verbal – like Noel Coward with a mean streak. And isn’t it about time we saw some onstage vomiting?

December, 2010. For the holiday season, with its cheer mixed with melancholy, what could be more appropriate than Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, about Masha, Olga and Irina, who just know that everything will work out all right if they can only get to Moscow – which, mysteriously, they never do. Meanwhile brother Andrei’s wife Natasha, with her insidious inferiority complex, is slowly taking over their house, and love sends its promises only like a fragrant scent dispersed in a high wind. Who couldn’t be moved by Olga’s cri de coeur, “The music is so gay, so joyous, it seems as if just a little more and we shall know why we live, why we suffer...If only we knew!” The perfect play as autumn becomes winter.

February, 2011. There’s no reason in the world why the theater can’t function in the mode of memoir, and Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky is one of the best of the lot. It’s about the six months that young Alan spends in California with his remarried father, about the sister whose personal extremes place her in constant danger, and about Alan’s hidden gay encounters that finally reach his intolerant father’s attention. I saw this first on PBS, with Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, and I suddenly understood that good old American realism can be transcendent. Makes more celebrated Wilson works – like Talley’s Folly and The Fifth of July – seem pale and irrelevant.

April, 2011. In my theater, Shakespeare would be represented regularly – and the masterpiece I’d show this year would be Measure for Measure, about a man condemned to die for fornication, and the pious sister who can save him only by agreeing to have sex with his judge. That sister’s plea for clemency (“O, it is excellent/To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous/To use it like a giant”) is one of the most beautiful arguments in all the Bard’s works, and the parable of the kind Duke who only pretends to leave licentious Vienna, has a metaphysical suggestiveness that continues to tantalize. When is mercy more important than justice? This is Shakespeare’s answer.

And the programming would end there, unless we were swimming in money – in which case I’d choose a sixth play, let’s say... Patrick Marber’s Closer. Or David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow. Or Montherlant’s The Dead Queen.

There are a lot of great plays out there. And I once thought I’d be showing them.

So buy a dreamticket.

And enjoy a dreamseason.

About a dozen years ago or so, I enjoyed a brief turn as artistic director of the New Loft Theatre, later renamed the Tampa City Theatre. After six weeks or so, the money ran out, and my vast power to schedule seasons and hire actors and directors evaporated almost as quickly as it had materialized. But I’ll never forget those heady days when I thought I might actually have a say as to the plays and artists that would appear in the Bay area. And all these years later, I still occasionally ask myself: if I were running a theater now, what shows would it be offering? Here, then, is the 2010-2011 schedule of the Creative Loafing Imaginary Stage Company. Note that none of the following has turned up locally over the last decade.

September, 2010.I’d start my season with a double bill of Harold Pinter’s The Collection and The Lover. I’m not so sure of the second piece, about a man who pretends to be his wife’s lover and who enjoys secretive trysts with her when her “husband” isn’t around. But the brilliant play The Collection is only about an hour long, so it needs a companion. And, yes, The Collection is remarkable. It’s about Bill and Harry, who live together in London peacefully until a third man, James, accuses Bill of having slept with his wife when the two of them – Bill and Stella – were in Leeds. What follows is a series of scenes in which all four characters negotiate, cagily and angrily and dejectedly, what “truth” they can all agree to believe. The facts of the matter are the least important elements.

October, 2010. For the season’s recent Broadway hit, I’d next show

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