Dude, I can explain. In the grand tradition of the theater, "getting it" is as much of a theme as star-crossed lovers or inevitable fate. I am sorry but, Mr. Brantley, you did not get it and I don't think you could have. The show was not for you, it was for me.
I would like to start this by congratulating Alex Timbers, for doing something exciting. Love's Labour's Lost was modern and young and, most importantly, it spoke to a generation that is often dismissed. Some may ask who am I to disagree with the legendary Ben Brantley, and with all due respect to the legend himself, I would argue, in this case, it's generational. I am 22 years old, I studied at the British American Drama Academy, I'm a graduate of Skidmore College and, quite simply, I love good theatre.
It seems to be Mr. Brantley's belief that a show can either be good and highbrow, or bad and lowbrow. However, what Timbers eloquently does is weave the two ideas together to make one smart appealing show. Brantley questions Timbers and composer Michael Friedman to explain their concept. I question Brantley to accept that theater is going to change, and he can either get on board or get out-of-the-way.
In a podcast with the Public Theater, Timbers states, "Theater can be in dialog with popular culture." A concept clearly lost on Brantley. By no means do I condemn my generations' inability to sit still. But, what Timbers realizes is that it goes beyond the ability to sit still and pay attention. We can't stand on lines for the bathroom without checking our Instagram or Twitter or get through a day of work without being on G-Chat.
That is what Timbers gets, and what makes him so special. One hundred minutes of engaging 22-year-olds is not an easy task, but Mazel tov Timbers, you did it. The reason, the cat jokes seemed to out of left field to Brantley is because he probably doesn't spend hours a night on Buzzfeed looking up the best cat memes; I would go as far to say that he doesn't know what a cat meme is. The cat jokes were spot on, 2013, pop culture. Mr. Brantley, I don't know what it was like at Swathmore, but at Skidmore if you hooked up with someone and saw them the next morning at the waffle station it was horribly embarrassing. Which is why when that joke hit, groups of friends looked at each other, covered their mouths and laughed out loud with an, "Oh my god -- how did he know that? Me too," look on their faces. The jokes stuck because they were real. While the show walks a fine line with being farcical, the ending, spoiler alert, smacks you in the face and brings you to reality. Timbers could have ended it on a high happy note, but he dares to go there and bring the audience back.
Going there against the odds may be Timbers' best attribute to the theater world. In a world of willing suspension of disbelief, Timbers challenges the audience to imagine a big brass band, and then he actually puts a full-scale marching band on stage! Brantley describes the music as being "directionless" and "identity-challenged." And maybe it is, but so are we. While writing this, the last three songs to come on my iTunes were "22" by Taylor Swift, "The Telephone Song" from Miss Saigon and "Hook" by the Blues Traveler: totally different genres, all great songs. We don't buy albums we buy singles. We're eclectic and we like being kept on our toes. In the podcast Timbers also says, "People younger than me process things really quickly -- we've all sat in musicals where we feel ahead." The hot tub, segway and golf cart may have felt gimmicky and superfluous to Brantley, but those surprise elements were just enough to keep me on my toes and never once get bored. The fast dialog and quick jokes have an Aaron Sorkin or Amy Sherman-Palladino-like quality that suggest, "Pay attention. Keep up. You're smart enough to understand this if you try." Timbers speaks to the millennials without dumbing anything down.
Let us not forget about the cast, lead by Patti Murin who seems to have been molded by the musical theater gods as a Meghan Hilty/Laura Belle Bundy crossbreed. The moment Murin, Maria Thayer, Kimiko Glenn and Audrey Lynn Weston began to sing, I became a wide-eyed 10-year-old hanging on their every, perfectly-sung note. Then there are the men: Daniel Breaker, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Bryce Pinkham led by the ridiculously attractive Colin Donnell, whom together did not have one-off moment. Brantley, love makes fools of everyone, accept it and move on! To give credit were credit is due, Caesar Samayoa and Rebecca Naomi Jones, I applaud your bravery and talent. Newcomer, Jeff Hiller is surely one to watch. His comedic timing rivaled comedy veteran Rachel Dratch. Dratch, while underutilized, had three or four moments of pure comedic gold. Hiller, I look forward to the day you are sitting behind the desk during Weekend Update, I have no doubt you will.
So, millennials I urge you stand up and fight for the theater made for us. If we continue to agree with the Brantley school of theater, I foresee theater going the way of opera and ballet. Love's Labour's Lost was sensational and it would be a crime not to share it with the world. Many thought Wicked was a silly show about a witch and look where that ended up.
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