One’s reaction to impressionism—assuming it’s presented with expertise and professionalism—can only be personal, because its stock in trade is, indeed, only achieved via what it evokes via manipulation of image and language that isn’t rooted to a linear or literalized agenda. There are some exceptional works, like those of Samuel Beckett, in particular Waiting for Godot, that achieve a more universal acceptance—through a combination of being an artists’ response to the era he lives in, blazing a new trail and somehow just striking the right chord—but then there are those in the margins, on the midlist. Lauded and awarded, perhaps, for a time, but ultimately subject to subjectivity…and for me the rambling monologues of Will Eno take me to I-Don’t-Get-It-ville Central. I didn’t understand the point of Thom Paine (based on nothing) nor to I understand the point of his latest, Title and Deed, at the Signature complex, save that in a general sense it’s a rumination on the journey of life being so continuous that no place is truly home in a permanent sense. A valid enough departure for rumination, I guess, but it never truly makes the case; rather it provides what is almost, but not quite, an evening of existential stand-up, with wry anecdotes about the mundane and wordplay that is likewise wryly considered but hasn’t the purposeful edge of, say, George Carlin’s. Then again, if it did, it wouldn’t be impressionistic.
The play’s sole character is an itinerant traveler, played as an Irishman (though he needn’t be) by Irish actor Conor Lovett (under the direction of his wife, Julie Hegarty Lovett) with a kind of halting diffidence that, for me, lost its charm early and became an attenuated device thereafter.
For me—and again, I can speak here only for me—there’s little refreshment in any of this because it feels like stylistic ground that has been trod before. There’s a certain skill in its emulation of, say, Beckett, but I don’t see it transcending its niche or pushing its envelope…or being amusing enough on its own terms to earn its keep as a work unto itself.
But around me there were those who seemed to be amused…and into it. I can’t say everyone; but enough that I can attest to something of a gestalt that kept the audience response from seeming fragmented or mixed. And that, I think, is due to the “expertise and professionalism” cited above. A play like Title and Deed can hold your concentration (as you try to figure it out) without necessarily engaging your spirit, and that’s enough to bring together admirers and not-so-much-ers at least from lights up to lights down.
But upon leaving the theatre, one can only say this definitively of Title and Deed: It’s every man (and woman)’s sensibility for itself…
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