Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Churchill downs
Traps should have stayed shut

One has to wonder about the sudden surfacing of a little-known 1977 drama, in this case Traps, by a dramatist as lauded and omnipresent on the international stage as the British writer Caryl Churchill, particularly when it’s hyped as a "rarely produced masterpiece." Given the vagaries of human inspiration, it’s not uncommon for even as accomplished an artist as Churchill, whose successes include Top Girls, Cloud Nine, and Serious Money, to come up with a loser.

Unfortunately, one’s suspicions prove correct. Too bad that the newly formed theater company Underdog Stage chose to hitch its first production to Churchill’s name rather than to one of her first-rate plays.

Traps is an extended one-act — here broken into two parts by an ill-considered intermission — about a six-person commune that functions like a retread from the 1960s. Set in Britain, the play has as its gimmick the exploration of time — past, present, and future — through which we see how wrong-way decisions affect the lives of the group of sometime friends, enemies, and lovers. Four men and two women meet, mingle, and cohabit; the chronological distinctions are so murky, however, that it’s hard to tell who’s on first with whom, and when any of the runners scores.

The play exudes a whiff of Pinteresque affectation by way of meaningful pauses and an undetermined outside threat, and in its style it reels farther back in time, to the post–World War II "kitchen-sink" theatrical revolution led by playwright John Osborne that brought the concerns of Britain’s underclass into the spotlight. But the change-partners-and-dance relationships among the characters are not only inexplicable but of minimal interest. It’s hard to remember a play about people who warrant so little viewer sympathy. Neither does Churchill disclose the point of their meanderings down memory lane. Does the past determine the future? You bet it does, but do we need to revisit that theatrical device again when so many playwrights have used it better?

For Traps, Churchill has concocted a pair of women with few smarts and even less self-esteem. Christie, who may or may not have had an incestuous affair with her brother Jack, has married Reg for money, and she stays with him — even though he beats her — because she’s "so comfortable." Syl behaves like the entire female contingent of Arthur Schnitzler’s La ronde, coupling with every man on the premises. As the play opens, she’s had a baby who’s either a boy or a girl depending on which spiral of the time warp she’s climbing. Later in the play, presumably before the pregnancy and birth, she claims she wants a child, and three of the four men are willing partners, even Jack, who is variously in love with her, Albert, and Del. Confused? So was I.

Underdog’s production is not without its merits. Set designer Anita Fuchs has trashed the funky playing space at the Piano Factory in a becoming manner, with an assortment of detritus that might have been picked up the night before trash collection on the Notting Hill streets of the pre–Hugh Grant era, before gentrification. She’s even thrown in the requisite ironing board and iron of Look Back in Anger. Ben Lambert directs with an eye for understatement that suits the naturalistic-fantastic tone of the work. The six-person ensemble does the best it can with an undetermined beginning, middle, and end, particularly Jason Dionne as the quick-to-burn Del. Most amusing is the nudie Saturday-night bath scene, where, one at a time, the characters drop their trousers and sink into a full-sized tub that is laboriously filled with buckets of water schlepped in by others in the cast. As the sextet of dripping bodies successively dunk and get out, the water is said to get more and more dirty — a funny glimpse of life as it must have been before our cleanlier-than-thou fixations.

Traps ends as it begins, with no resolutions of its twists of fate and cantankerous personal confrontations. Perhaps if we knew more about the characters, or cared about their emotional difficulties, the obvious contrivances of the experiment would prove less offputting. That not being the case, it would have been better to allow Churchill’s achievements to carry her reputation and let long-sleeping plays lie.

Issue Date: December 17 - 23, 2004
Back to the Theater table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group