Poems From a Love Triangle
Conceived and composed by Bill Gilliam
Musical direction by Gregory Oh
Stage direction by Anne Anglin
May 2 @ The Music Gallery
By Matt McGeachy
I’m sitting on the hard pews of a church listening to a new music concert meshed together with semi-erotic love poems based on W.R. Rodgers, an Irish poet of the mid-century, wondering what the hell am I doing here. I’m a theatre critic, I thought, and self-fashioned though I may be, it’s something I think I do pretty well. But this? What do I have to critique about this? It’s something I barely understand and certainly don’t appreciate; the music is chaotic (some would say “challenging”) and the promised acting, in the form of a staged radio drama with new music for which I was ostensibly sitting on the rock hard pew, left much to be desired. What criticism should I offer, if any?
The practical answer as to why I was there is that fairly frequently I get emails from my editor asking if anyone on staff is interested in reviewing some show or event. The email for this show came in at a busy time; I scanned it over, saw “erotic” and “staged as a radio drama” and thought, sure, what the hell, should be interesting. Maybe it’s shite, but isn’t it fun to write about that?! In short, I didn’t know what to expect and hadn’t closely read the invitation, so when it turned out to be primarily a concert of new music (which I am not particularly qualified to evaluate), new poetry (which I am better qualified to evaluate), and some quasi-operatic singing (which I am qualified to evaluate) I was surprised.
Not in a good way.
At the beginning of this menagerie of artistic expression, I quickly determined that my hopes of a staged radio drama was not in the cards and was irked — at myself, at the composer/conceiver, Bill Gilliam, at the publicist for not putting NEW MUSIC in big capital letters at the top of the flyer (which, it turns out, she did, so I guess I was just pissed at Bill and myself) — and glanced at my watch, antsy for it to be over. I quickly realized that this would be a long, unpleasant way to spend an hour of my time, so I tried another tactic: surrender to the new art form. I wouldn’t review the spectacle; instead, I would relay my experience of surrender.
I listened to the music, the voices, the poems very hard and tried to open my mind and soul, as though maybe this would be the night that changed the direction of my life and sent me on a new odyssey of discovery into the world of modern composing. I closed my eyes to try to feel every note and absorb the sonorous voice of the actor and singer reading poetry. And I couldn’t feel a damn thing.
Not only that, but after ten minutes passed, I was staring at my watch again, waiting for it to be over. And although I didn’t have any great revelations about my affection for new music, and although I won’t offer a critical opinion on something I know so little about, I’ll tell you this: the woman next to me was doing the same thing.