“HardBall” by Victoria Stewart, produced by Live Girls! Theatre

First and foremost, tonight is the last night of “Hardball” by Victoria Stewart, over at Annex Theatre, produced by Live Girls! Theatre, which I have mentioned previously is one of my favorite theatres in town. This is their first full-length play since becoming an itinerant company, so I absolutely had to go support them. I was fortunate enough to go see this show last week. It’s well performed, and overall well thought-out. I had some questions about it as I left, which, as questions about shows always do, congealed in my head into sentences much later this week, rather than at a time when I could actually blog about the show to give it some press. Regardless, if you haven’t gone to see it, shame on you.

The show is about the rise to stardom of Virginia, a young conservative female reporter who becomes a talking head for the GOP. What spews out of her mouth over the course of the play is vile, at least to a liberal like me. It’s vile to her equally liberal former coworkers and boss as well. Virginia staged a small rebellion to, most likely, intentionally get fired over her political beliefs so she could brag about it on national TV. She gets one chance and falls on her face. Later, she picks fights with women’s lib, gun control, and anti-war protesters. Her career culminates when, substituting for a well-known morning talk show host, she interviews the widow of a beheaded war correspondent. Virginia’s verbal attack is relentless, and although she makes a fool of herself on TV for making the widow cry, she ends up on a tour of conservative talk shows defending herself and “apologizing.” Throughout the play, we’re not sure whether or not she actually believes these things or is simply a brilliant businesswoman, picking up on a trend and milking it for all it’s worth. A final note in the play suggests she’s the latter, but the issue is never resolved.

Issues I had with the play: I’m tired of male-female non-blood-relative relationships, in all kinds of entertainment, at some point turning into romance or sex. This is a totally personal bias, but honestly, was it absolutely necessary for Virginia and her former boss to have had the tumultuous sexual history that they did? Would the playwright have gone there if these characters were both men, or both women? Couldn’t it have been just as hard if it was a story of mentor and disciple/student tearing away from each other? I understand it was supposed to both humanize Virginia, and give her a last thread to rip away before her final major leap into neo-con rhetoric. But why, specifically, did it have to be so sexual? I can’t think of a good reason, other than it’s a stereotypical place for a writer, any writer, to go. It felt, to me, like a side plot that didn’t tie in very well to the rest of the story, which was compelling. She didn’t use him as a stepping stone on her way to the top, and at the same time she didn’t care about him enough that he changed her mind. So, what purpose did it serve in that particular form? I don’t have a good answer to that, but at the same time, I don’t know that I would have automatically come up with anything different. It’s an expected default, and that’s not inherently wrong. Just something I like to pick at from time to time. And I will say, the fact that this was the biggest fault I had with the show is a good thing. It’s a very picky qualm.

The other issue I had is similarly picky. Neo-cons = bad, liberals = good. Liberals also = wishy-washy and weak, while neo-cons = decisive, quick, no-nonsense, harsh, ambitious, and … new. Liberals were portrayed as a dying breed. There wasn’t a character who was old-school conservative, or libertarian, for example. There were no socialist liberals, or anarchists. It was two-sided politics, the new pushing the old out as brutally and quickly as it can. There was also a sense that this was a bad thing. As mentioned before, I’m liberal to a fault. I’m not a card-carrying member, but I have serious socialist leanings. Neo-cons make me physically sick to my stomach. But, again, I’m picking at the typical, the expected storyline of this play. The details are new, but the thread is old woe-is-me liberal crying. Which I am getting really tired of. On the other hand, I have of late had a hard time with Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart, although I thank them for keeping me sane through Bush’s presidency. I have a hard time with their sarcasm, because it puts us on the same level as the neo-con talking heads, and I’m tired of being at that level. Anyway, my point with all of this is that the story wasn’t telling me anything I couldn’t have guessed. It didn’t try too hard to humanize a member of the GOP, and it made democrats look like a pathetic lot who should be put on the endangered species list. I don’t think this is the actual way of the world, but it is a story I’ve heard over and over since I graduated high school way back in ’02. I would have been more interested in and energized by a story that was actually told from the GOP perspective, where liberals truly were the bad guys screwing things up for the rest of us. I might have been more interested, but I also would have left the theatre much more angry. It’s not a story that will go over well in Seattle, I admit.

The upside? It got me thinking. If a play gets me thinking and/or feeling for a long time after I leave the theatre, then I have spent my money well.

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A quick note and apology: although “Hearts are Monsters” from Macha Monkey was remounted, I still managed to miss it. This is partially due to being poor, partially due to being busy, and partially due to having to choose between “HardBall” and “Hearts are Monsters.” I chose “HardBall,” because, although I have huge respect for both female-driven companies, “HardBall” is about politics. I can’t resist politics. I try, and I fail. But I have no doubt that “Hearts Are Monsters,” which moved up to the spacious Theatre Off Jackson, was again an amazing show and deserving of all it’s success. If I’m lucky, it’ll get extended, or remounted a third time. I hope that it does, not for my sake, but for the sake of the company and the show itself.

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