Staging

About 30 minutes into Breaking, a realization dawned on your boy:

“Wait, this could’ve been a play!”

A theory I doubled down on when I saw that the movie’s co-writer is Kwame Kwei-Armah, THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF LONDON’S YOUNG VIC AND A MULTI-HYPHENATE UNAFRAID TO DABBLE IN ALL TYPES OF ART.

But then, I remembered:

“Well, it could be…if my fellow playgoers pulled the pretentious sticks out of their hoity-toity asses and were actually willing to drop some dough on genre fare.” 

A bank-robbery play does so much of the work for a playwright…if a playwright’s work can be partially defined as concocting a scenario involving humans stuck in a confined space (the stage!), enduring a dramatically-fraught situation dripping with steep stakes, with a narrative-fueled plot told through interpersonal dynamics.

A Breaking-style bank robbery boasts the intrigue of action, without having to seamlessly stage tricky stage fighting.

The same calculus applies for a horror play; be it a haunted house or a form of kidnapping, such stories perfectly lend themselves to the dictates of live theater.

And yet, “action” and “horror” are four-letter words for the prestige-obsessed; they’re “lesser” art, “beneath” their “elevated” taste. Heck, even straight comedies are given short shrift on the big boards, unless they’re “classics” whose rich histories signify them as Important and thus Worthy (think: Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Neil Simon, etc.). It’s almost like the play sector of New York’s theater scene views itself as the last bastion of “high” art, in contrast to Broadway’s reputation of being dominated by the frivolity of musicals (which is what we like to call a false binary; fluffy musicals and “B” genres can be more substantive than “serious” drama, unless you blindly trust the illusory sheen of superficial appearances).

As such, we’re left with either Pulitzer-esque plays, or revivals.

Then again, perhaps playwrights simply aren’t writing these stories (or the powers-that-be refuse to produce them)? Aspiring scribes tend to rely on such softball premises (think: Michael Scott whipping out his gun during every improv) when they’re on the come-up still developing the creativity of their craft, so maybe they’re scared that such tales will label them as amateurs?

Which I understand…but clever riffs on formulas can and should be heralded!


P.S. The next time you feel inclined to disparage a movie like Breaking by describing it as a “play” or “TV movie”, ask yourself: why the heck are either considered pejorative? Also, watch an actual recording of a stage show, and then get back to me on the average level of filmmaking there.

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