No Rules Theatre Company is premiering their new show “The Personal(s)” at Signature Theatre. Brian Sutow, the artistic director of the theatre company, adapted the play from a film by Stanley Tucci, who in turn adapted his film from a movie by Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. The show is about an estranged couple who are attempting to reconnect by setting up a series of “blind dates” with each other, through the use of personal ads. With each blind date they take on different characters as they explore and delve into the tragedy that pulled them apart and as they attempt to reconcile. Unfortunately, this production hit its high points with a clever set and the lighting. I was curious when I got home if the movie was a beloved art house film that just happened to lose something in the translation to the stage. A quick check of rotten tomatoes found a movie that was generally panned and on more than one occasion was described as tedious. And that was exactly what this show put forth, a 90 minute, no intermission exercise in tedium. When I returned home from the show I opened my twitter account and someone I follow had re-tweeted Mark Harris, a columnist with Entertainment Weekly. Mr. Harris tweeted “I have often gone into a play thinking that the sign ‘90 minutes, no intermission’ was reassuring and come out realizing it was a warning”. I don’t believe he was at the show, but he may as well have been because it encapsulated my entire feelings towards this show. Three audience members got up and left during the show. While I would never engage in such behavior as it is immensely rude. I can also say I wouldn’t have returned if there had been an intermission.
I’ve tried to figure out whether it was the script or the performances that really pulled the production down and the best I can come up with is that it is a combination of both. At no point during the entire show do you actually care about either of the characters and that falls on both the script and the actors. The script fails in the very premise. Both characters are well aware of what drove them apart, but at no point does either one seek out help from a professional. Instead, they engage in this asinine game playing as an attempt to resolve the underlying rift. Beyond that, the eventual reveal as to what caused the rift in this couples relationship comes so far into the show that you are already peaking at your watch waiting for the show to end. At that point the audience was already lost and it was hard to feel any compassion for either character. Moreover, the attempts at humor fell flat and were misplaced. This show plays as a heavy drama, and the attempts at humor were basically slapstick and didn’t muster a chuckle from anyone in the audience. For instance, on one of the “blind dates” the husband is playing a blind man and he comes into the bar ordering a beer facing away from the bartender, using his cane to whack the bartender as if he didn’t know where he was, and repeatedly attempting to grab his wife’s breast as if he was actually going for his beer. The actors don’t escape blame either. While the script wasn’t particularly engaging it felt as if I was watching actors reading lines, as opposed to performing a script.
At one point in the show a gun makes an appearance. I am one that usually loathes the use of blanks during live productions, because no matter how prepared I am for it to be fired I will jump. I sit there with anxiety just waiting for that moment to happen. In this show, I was hoping it would be used just to end the show quicker.