SOLD: ONE HOUSE. AT A DISAPPOINTING RATE.
Since Daniel Fish has been certified a new genius by New York’s avant-garde elite, I am loath to label him a hoax on the basis of having seen just one of his productions, but House for Sale, the Jonathan Franzen essay which Fish has adapted and directed for The Transport Group Theater Company, strikes me as a stripped-down, bare-bones, hi-tech rip-off of the Elevator Repair Service. And, after 85 interminable minutes, I was reminded how enthralled I was by the 7-1/2 hour Gatz, when I left the theater wanting to read The Great Gatsby again because the theater experience was so true to the novel’s grandeur, while House for Sale seems at least twice as long as Gatz and merely made me wish I had stayed at home and read the essay in the privacy of my own imagination.
I have heard nothing but good things about Fish’s production of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, but then again, the David Foster Wallace essay was funnier and more thrillingly original material than Franzen’s ode to the selling of his mother’s house and the memories it evoked in him of their good times together. In it, five actors read the opening passage in swift repetition, presumably in character (though who those characters were and what they represented was never made clear), and it became nothing more than an exercise in graduated speed-reading. The actors – Rob Campbell, Lisa Joyce, Merritt Janson, Christina Rouner, and Michael Rudko – are fine, and do what Fish demands of them with skill and intensity. But the impression they make is, under the circumstances, fleeting. At the performance I attended, Michael Rudko made the most vivid impression, but there is a gimmick which I will not reveal (since programs were distributed upon leaving rather than entering the theater, suggesting that Fish wants to keep his conceit a secret), but I will say that, at another performance, it might be another actor who will make the deeper impression. To fully appreciate what was intended, you would have to see House for Sale more than once. And once, I promise, is sufficient. In fact, when a woman left the theater midway through the performance, she seemed to be speaking for many of us.
photos by Carol Rosegg
House for Sale
The Duke on 42nd Street
scheduled to end on November 18, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.new42.org/duke/duke_home.aspx