Against the Grain
I understand subjectivity to be the guiding principle in criticism. Still, albeit from my highly personal and totally biased vantage point, I find myself compelled to take you to task for your review of Theatre of NOTE's Girl Under Grain [Back Stage West, 2/22/00], playing through Mar. 31. I find playwright Karen Hartman's work to be gloriously understated, a true fill-in-the-blanks adventure, very distilled but obfuscating—things which can just as easily serve as admonishments, sure. In the vein of any-true-Picasso-has-to-prove-to-me-he-can-paint-portrait-style-first (then I'll buy his "cubism" as a careful application of technique rather than bullshit), Girl Under Grain shows Hartman's pedigreed knowledge of theatrical convention, structure, and language along all of its meticulously stitched seams. Director Laura Stribling's staging of this layered complexity is, to the show's credit, very simple. People just talk. Music is used in the most basic and scene-informing of ways. There is a great movement of time and place and situation evident in lighting and physicality—actors' motion, prop use, scene changing. The acting itself is subtle, introspective, varied, hitting notes off the usual scale.
As can be said of anything, Girl Under Grain is not for everybody, but it's exactly what I think theatre should be: a bald restaging of the Book of Ruth, a subversive and deeply passionate lesbian love story, a rich commentary on the way men and women get in the way of each other, a rehashed war between the sexes, brilliant or banal. For anyone adept at sitting and listening, thrill, empathy, and a deeper understanding are the rewards. Please don't let it get away without you. This is one of the special ones.
Member, Theatre of NOTE
Los Angeles, Calif.