The universe and the playwright
In last year's brilliant performance of Annie Baker's play John, her first at Signature Theatre, a moment occurred that the Irish would refer to as an aisling—the universe in one moment. It happened at the end of a monologue told by that play's enigmatic innkeeper, regarding a small but profound moment of comeuppance in her life. There is at least one aisling moment in all of Baker's plays, and I couldn't wait to see The Antipodes, also at Signature.
For two hours with no intermission, a cast referred to only by their first names is locked around a regular-seeming office conference table, brainstorming story ideas for a company purposefully left vague. The premise is promising. In the Page to Stage talk preceding the show, director Lila Neugebauer praised Baker's attention to "micro-minutia," an apt way to describe her brave, famous pauses and extended scenes. The Antipodes's set is a pigeon-gray, unrelenting maw of office furniture and carpeting. If you're sensing a conceit of featurelessness, you're right. This can be thrilling if in service of a new and unusual revelation or anomaly. Baker's insight is usually so strong that style elements work counterintuitively to create a sort of breathlessness. In John, another single-room play set over a short period of time, audiences hung on every word until the last emotionally shattering one. While I enjoy Baker's plays mostly for their hyperrealism, her attempt at new surrealist ground is welcome.[ Read More ]