Saturday marked the close of No Name Players' Pittsburgh premiere of Craig Wrights' Orange Flower Water. The show ran from June 29th- July 14th.
In itself, the play is an intensely concentrated exploration of the pains of suburban infidelity. Every scene is loud, fast and full of consequence. As Sean Collier noted in Pittsburgh Magazine, "it is a play of ramifications." He also called the performance "Must See Theatre" and suggested one planned for post-curtain drinks because the play is "hard to recover from."
Others have claimed they were engaged and outraged by the characters in the play (see Pittsburgh Underground's rant about how the play affected the author). Although there was no doubt that the challenge Wright (author or Recent Tragic Events and a number of episodes of the the television series LOST) put on the page was met with tenacity and vigor, I feel that my age (22) might have affected the way I recieved the play and restricted me from having such awesome revelations as an audience member.
A brilliant woman once told me that buried beneath every play is a question. While watching this play the only question I kept asking myself was: "What's the question?" No Name Players provided an answer only during the final moments of the play. After over an hour of watching the four characters dance between bludgeoning and sucker-punching one another like a high-stake boxing mach, the temperature of the room finally changed. David Calhoun, played by Ricardo Vila-Roger, closed the play with the most honest and (in my opinion) human moment in the play.
During his final monologue David the Adulterer writes a note to his youngest daughter (that he has with his newest wife). He says something along the lines of, 'That's one of greatest mysteries of life, Lilly. People keep hurting one another but there is always love.'
I realized my biggest qualm with the production during this final moment. They chose to highlight the pain and struggle but forgot that in everything is it's opposite and that everything is defined by what it is not. There was no love (until this final moment). Ted Hoover of City Paper had it "wright" when he wrote that the author crafted the play in such a way that what is unsaid is every bit as important as the actual dialogue. And that's the string that holds this play together in performance.
Don't get me wrong. I fully enjoyed the production. And There was one awesome moment I had as an audience member (which I will proceed to tell you about now). There was a moment in the play when I took myself out of the action to survey the space. The audience was seated arena style (on all sides) and I took a look at everyone else in the room but myself. I became aware of all of the negative space. The space between the couples that were clumped together throughout the seats. No one was touching. It seemed that no one wanted to get to close to those that they presumably came out with this evening. It was apparent that another person could have fit between every couple in the room (minus one couple that were practically snogging).
I attributed this with a discomfort as a result of the action on stage. As if the problems being explored in the play forced audience members to retreat themselves and protect themselves from the potential fallout and catastrophe being explored on stage.
It's hard to measure the "success" of any production. How could you even begin? Did you get the message across? Did you engage the audience? Did the play make sense? What were the objectives of the theatrical team? Ultimately it doesn't matter. Based on the reviews of the play and my personal observations of the audience I'd say that No Name Players made us feel something in that tiny room in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning. And to that I say, "Well done!"
The No Name Players are a bold and daring theatrical force in Pittsburgh and I'm excited to see what they do with Neil LaBute's Reasons to be Pretty in their upcoming production August 3rd-18th. If they can achieve something similar to what they have done with Orange Flower Water I think we will all be pleased and challenged as audience members.