Don't even try and deny itI wish Andrew WK was in Cherrywood. Then he could have stopped in and helped everyone out with some really good party tips, like lining your chip bowls with paper towels for easy blood cleanup.
'Cos you're gonna have a Party tonight
And you know we're gonna do it tonight
We're gonna lose it all
When you open your door!
Party, Party, There's gonna be a party Tonight!
-Andrew WK, It's Time To Party
So, Cherrywood...I mean, if you're reading this you probably know what it is and what it "represents." Apparently the hipsters are saving theater for 20 bucks a head over at the Angel Island theater on West Sheridan. If by hipsters you mean a 47 year old director, a 25 year old storefront theatre stalwart, and a cast and crew with ages that range from 20 to 100 (Rich Cotovsky).
In the play werewolves stand in as a symbol for change as the all-night party is an opportunity for transformation. (I'm immediately reminded of hipster wolf t-shirt phenomenon from a few years ago.) But just like hipsters, it's a mistake to assume this play is concerned only with fashion disguised as politics or intellectualism. What is the play about at its heart? It's vaguely about change, especially, at the end, about the irony of being faced with the real possibility for change after you've been abstractly ruminating about it all night--but it's phrased as an inquiry and not an answer, which is basically what hipster culture is about. Which is a legitimate political position in its own right. We are the first generation of bohemian youth culture that's not going to look like idiots--like the hippies and the punks--later for pretending to have all the answers, when all we had was a new way of dressing stupid. ("I get depressed when I realize I'll never know how human history ends" one character says--we know the limits of our knowledge.) We know we dress like idiots and we know, as the play's characters do, that when they're talking about Aerosmith's disappointments as the play's characters do, they're also talking about our own failed (for now) potential if we refuse to be more than wittily, babblingly, unsubstantially uncommunicative.Monica, you are a good writer...and you are the first person I've ever met who ever WANTED to be a hipster. I think you make some cogent points, disguised in a love letter to aloof skinny kids who shop at American Apparel, but tell people it's from Brown Elephant. But, I think you may be experiencing what Aristotle and my dad called "hubris." You seem to be claiming a play for a subculture, when the play desperately wants to be claimed by EVERYONE. That's the point, and even after two viewings, you seem to have missed it.
-Monica Westin, Why Hipsters Will Save Theatre: Cherrywood
There were two cool old lesbians sitting next to my wife and I at the top of the show. About 20 minutes in, for reasons unknown to me or my wife (or God, since they are lesbians) they decided to leave. It's not easy to leave Cherrywood once it's running. The stage is basically an in-the-round set up with seats lining all four walls, and there is NO intermission. So, they walked through the show. One at a time...and what was interesting was that once they entered the playing field, I could not distinguish them from the rest of the crowd. The second one almost got kicked in the face by a fight scene, but how could she have known it was coming? It was untelegraphed, and sudden, just like a fight that might happen at a real party with real people. This play was not for them, and they realized it right away. That's fine...this play is not for everyone, even though it wants to be. I'm not sure I've ever seen a play that was so desperate for people to like it, or at least accept it. It's screaming that even if you hate me, you have to understand that I exist. I matter, I happen, this is happening all the time. All the time.
As I sat in my seat in the theatre house, about 5 minutes before the play began, I started to feel nauseous. I began to sweat and feel very nervous. The play began, and not 10 minutes in I leaned to my wife and said "Oh lord, I think I might have to vomit or defecate madly! What will I do, love?" She shrugged and suggested a possible exit and then I had a small epiphany. "OH," I said to my brain, "This is exactly how I used to feel in high school right before I went to a party with strangers." As soon as I realized this, I was totally fine. So, kudos to Cherrywood for taking me back in time to an extremely awkward and terrible period in my life.
Cherrywood does have some things that don't work. But, I have to ask, do they not work by design? Is it boring and weird on purpose? And the only answer is "Yes, of course, silly, are you a dummy guy?" My inner voice hates stupid questions. Yes, the acting is stilted...because when you have 49 people on stage they can't all be bad actors. Statistically impossible...monkeys can do this job. Yes, the dialogue is cringeworthy at points. You will get tired of hearing statements that wouldn't ever get Liked on your News Feed...but once again, by design it is done (Yoda-style). Haven't you been cornered at a party by Brian Amidei? Just nonsense that most people keep nodding and nodding along with...ask Geoff Button about nodding, and what it's like to stare at Dereck Garner's chest. Dear god, he's carved out of marble. I want to know if he has a sister, so she can film us doing it.
The show does not have a narrative structure that resembles anything close to dramatic, but it is one of the most tension filled shows I have ever seen. Almost to the point of dread...but then nothing really happens. Also, by design...and a sign of the times. It also plays off the idea of many horror films...put people in a bad situation in an enclosed space and make them sweat. But, then again, modern life has sort of resembled a horror movie for a while now, with no payoff except more and more fear of the future. So, let's watch some funny cat videos, because god forbid we confront that whole scenario of terror.
There are so many people in the show, and I know a few of them. Some I've known for years, and some that I've met through the interwebs recently. But, I do find it interesting that when I would tell people I was coming, I didn't get a standard response and no one ever begged me to come and see it. It was always, "Well, I'll be interested to talk to you about it!" What the hell does that mean? It means, y'all, that there is a LOT to talk about in this show. That it causes conversation. I would love to have a chat with someone who absolutely hated it, just to find out why. I mean, they'd be wrong, but it's always good to listen to people's opinions. Especially haters, because haters gonna hate.
"But, Eric Roach, what does it all mean?" you shout, pissed off that this might actually be a real review and not as snarky and bitchy as you'd like, "What can you really say about it?"
It does not have a beginning, although the beginning already happened, and it does not have an ending, although we are all headed there. There is nothing to be said, although if you listen really hard you can hear it. And sometimes, every once in a blue moon, the best thing that can happen to you is to dance to The Animals at 6 in the morning and not care one bit how it looks or what people think.
Oh, and sometimes Lindsay Pearlman gets sick of your fucking shit and yells at you to shut up. That actually has happened to me at every party I've ever been to, or will go to. Good casting, Cromer.
Cherrywood: B+ (because I thought I might puke at the beginning, and that sucks)
-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer