Art Critic, U.S. Daily News
As you know I have been on vacation for the past week, but I hope that has not deterred any of my readers from critiqueing some art on their own. What does an art critic do on vacation? Well this one sampled Terry Maiers’ new play, “Act Like You Mean It”. Maiers is known more for his short comedy sketches, so this is his first attempt at a full length pass4sure “serious” play. I use the paranthesis because there is a lot of humor in this play but overall I would have to say there is no way to call this a comedy.
The play begins showing a rehearsal of a play where the main character Ralph Brooks cannot remember his lines. Obviously it is late in the rehearsal process and the cast is frustrated with Ralph. Maiers is pass4sure exams clever with his lines in this pat of the act and draws humor from the situation. However Ralph continues with his line phobia after the rehearsal is over, contending he can’t remember what he is supposed to say when having conversations outside the theater. We see him with his wife and a few friends. Agaiin there is humor there, although it felt like author was obviously stretching this act out some. Finally we are given a surprise ending to explain George’s lack of memory at the end of Act 1.
But when the Seond Act begins and George continues having trouble remembering what to say and appears more nervous things begin to take a more serious tone in the play. The intent seems to be for the audience to have sympathy for Ralph, and even though there are still some humorous lines, it is more nervous laughter from the audience than belly laughs. By the end of the act Ralph seems to be having some serious problems and again we are given the surprise reason for these at the end of the act.
In the Third Act Ralph is now seriously questioning things up to the point as to just what is real and what isn’t. His questioning leads up to him seeing a psychiatrist. What seemed funny at the beginning of the play now seems very serious and the audience questions Ralph’s sanity. Maiers sticks to his old tricks and after a few meetings with both George and his wife, the pyschiatrist comes up with a surprise solution at the end of the play. However the audience is left wondering if this is really a solution for Ralph or if Ralph was perhaps the only sane one in the play.
Obviously Maiers has a fondess for gimmicks such as the play within the play and the surprise endings. These work to a certain degree but after a while one is wondering more what he will spring on the audience rather than focusing on the play itself. Also the change in Ralph is so drastic, going from a humorous character to one that questions reality itself, I was left at times wondering just what the author intended. But this is the type of play that needs to be thought about some after seeing it, for looking back at Ralph’s struggle I realize it was meant to model all our struggles with who we are, only on a grander scale.
Although flawed, this is a play worth seeing for its humor and more for the questions raised and left unaswered at the end.
This is just like Saunders. He always liked to have everything spelled out for him. Well, spell this, Saunders. Y-O-U-S-U-C-K. Maiers is a comedy genius. A little dose of ambiguity would do you good. Maiers is just the man to provide it. Gimmicky? Nah. Non-linear is the new “Act Three.”
We all know Maiers has a penchant for doing injury to himself. Saving clippings of reviews by no-nothing hacks and offering them up for inspection at the drop of a hat in some ongoing orchestration of a sad mea culpa is a typical move for him. Clearly he must be saved from himself. Check out the Fall 07 of the Yale School of Drama’s journal Theatre and read Djuana Poythress-Machado’s “Soho Survey” to get a reading of Act Like You Mean It that begins to approach some knowing understanding of what Terry is up to. Of course, these are the kinds of clippings he wouldn’t keep since he has cultivated a notorious reputation for himself as an “anti-academic.” (A stance he can sustain only by keeping mum about his personal life, of course.) He continues to seek the good will and appreciation of the whole New York faux-prole, post-fashionistas literati crowd who wear their five hundred dollar haircuts like red armbands and aggressively assert from the pages of rags like the Daily News on to the gloss of Vanity Fair that “I don’t need to know the so-called art of theatre; I know what makes me happy.”
It’s his crabby contrariness and his appetite for self-abasement which puts much of the bite in his work, however. Luckily he has a few friends who ignore the scurrilous rhetoric and help him stay on the straight and narrow. And loan him a fifty now and then.
Yeah, by the way, Terry … that reminds me …when can I expect a repayment?
Joseph Blomfeld, Columbia University
The author of The Power of 1: Make of It What You Will will discuss artistic examinations of the role of personal perception in creating reality, from Kant to Being John Malkovich. The half-day seminar will conclude with attending a performance of Terry Maiersâ€™ Act Like You Mean It, followed by discussion at Joe Allenâ€™s.