Review: Eventually It Ended. ‘Death of the Liberal Class’ at New Ohio Theatre
Thomas Burns Scully
Sometimes plays are bad. Sometimes they are so bad you get to actively enjoy how bad they are. I felt that way about Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games’ which I saw during its shambolic Broadway run at the Lyric theatre. From its garish, unnecessary CGI to its Power Rangers stunt show aesthetic, almost everything about it seemed to have a touch of the Wiseau about it. I will forever love Flatley for the unintentional laughter he brought to the world. But other times, darker times, plays are so bad they’re bad. They’re boring, dull, wastes of time and energy. Today we’re dealing with the latter. I went to see ‘Death of the Liberal Class’ the other day and when I say it’s uninspiring, I mean it to the extent that I can’t be bothered to think of a decent hyperbole to end this sentence with. It’s the kind of play that is so bland it’s hard to know where to start, but this is my job, so I’d better find somewhere…
The play follows Nick and his daughter Andrea as he attempts to set up a new life for himself on a farm in Canada. He has begun schtupping the neighboring farmer-ess (cheating on his wife) and has found a new peace in his life. Prior to his northward migration he was a left-wing, scare-mongering, anti-capitalist zealot with high blood-pressure and a doomsday fetish. His greatest literary success had him convinced the world economy was weeks away from implosion, calling those responsible: robots. Now he has relaxed and is reasonably content to live and let die. Things get complicated, however, when his restless daughter invites a strange boy she met on the internet to join them on the farm; then his wife returns. His wife is a medium-powered political TV presenter with plans for her daughter that go beyond Nick’s back-to-the-land aspirations. Conflict starts to bubble, cyber-crimes ensue, the Canadian mounties get involved, and the economic doomsday never seems all that far off.
Described above, ‘Liberal Class’ sounds like it might be a half-decent play. Trust me when I say that it’s not. It’s hard to tell where the mediocre writing begins and the par-to-below-par acting begins. The father-daughter relationship is trying to be quirky and fun, but never ascends higher than awkward, poorly-written pop-culture references that masquerade as rapport. The mother-daughter relationship consists almost entirely of stagey arguments and stagier bedroom dance scenes. The daughter-boyfriend relationship has all the chemistry of a noble gas (completely non-reactive, for those of you who didn't take chemistry). Plot almost struggles through in the scenes between Nick and his mistress, but writer Robert Lyons is trying so hard to be fun and quirky that it devolves into Shyamalanian weirdness. Arthur Aulisi, as a randomly appearing Canadian mountie, seems to be the only person actually having fun in this show, and is certainly the only actor consistently worth watching, but there is precious little of him. The play is steadfast in its need to match the appeal of an un-untuned, static spewing television set, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
As I said earlier, however, I am still at a loss as to where blame needs to be placed. Certainly, this cast, as a unit, isn’t about to be nominated for a Drama Desk award, but I’m normally inclined to spare actors and put the blame on poor writing. Lyons’ script is also not about to get nominated for a Drama Desk award, but there are occasional flashes of genuine cleverness in it. Odd one-liners that contain authentic wit sometimes spring up out of nowhere, sticking out like ingrown hairs; orphaned punchlines battling against the tide to be heard. So was it really all that bad? Well, yes. The answer here is that no one is pulling enough weight to get the pyramid built. There are enough logical holes in Lyons’ script to call it swiss cheese (he doesn’t seem to know how hacking works, for a start), but the cast (with the exception of Arthur Aulisi) are uniformly drab. There’s never any sense of real warmth, love or relationship in these people; rarely a line-reading that didn’t need a do-over; and few to no instances of real comic-competence (let alone comic timing or delivery). So here we have the rare marriage of lack of form and dearth of style that we look for schlocky in science-fiction novellas. A cheeseball vanity project dressed up in a Liberal Socialist agenda like a frat boy in a Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume.
Don’t waste your time on this one, there’s nothing for you in ‘Death of the Liberal Class’. Nothing beyond the wish for actual robots to come along and destroy the characters, and all their interminable talk of metaphorical robots. I’ve seen good stuff at the New Ohio before, stuff I’ve genuinely enjoyed, but this is a decided drop in quality, with a marked upswing in capricious self-importance. Imagine Bill Maher, George Orwell and Armando Iannucci. Now imagine them as talentless hacks with the same political agendas, and one-tenth the understanding. That’s ‘Death of the Liberal Class’. Stay well away, and may it soon be as dead as the title suggests.
‘Death of the Liberal Class’ runs at the New Ohio Theatre until February 13th. Tickets start at $18. For more information head to NewOhioTheatre.org
This review was written by Thomas Burns Scully, a New York based writer, actor and musician. His work has been lauded in TimeOut NY and the New York Times, and his writing has been performed on three continents. He is generally considered to be the thrifty person’s Renaissance man.
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