Friday, October 25, 2019

Civilization and Its Discontents: Synonyms (Synonymes, 2019)

Quentin Dolmaire and Tom Mercier in Synonyms (Synonymes, 2019).

In our era of resurging fascism, Israeli writer-director Nadav Lapid (and co-writer Haim Lapid) give us Synonyms (Synonymes, 2019), a primarily French film about the fascist prostitution of national identity. It’s an anti-bildungsroman in which the protagonist starts off not knowing what he wants, and ends with the realization that what we want can’t be found.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Thanksgiving Play: Satirical Blur

Jesse Hinson and Amanda Collins in The Thanksgiving Play at Boston's Lyric Stage. (Photo: Glen Perry)

The idea behind Larissa Fasthorse’s The Thanksgiving Play, which is receiving its Boston premiere at Lyric Stage (Playwrights Horizon staged the world premiere last year), is delectable. A high school drama teacher named Logan (Amanda Collins) has received several grants to devise and direct a Thanksgiving play, to be performed for her students, that is sensitive to all the contemporary liberal concerns. She has assembled three collaborators who will double as her fellow performers – Jaxton (Jesse Hinson), her sort-of boyfriend, who calls himself a professional actor but whose entire résumé seems to consist of street performances; an elementary schoolteacher named Caden (Barlow Adamson) with a passion for history who has done extensive research on the history of the holiday; and Alicia (Grace Experience), an actress whose Native American background was the linchpin assuring that Logan would be awarded one of those grants. But at the first rehearsal Logan discovers that Alicia isn’t native at all; she’s vaguely ethnic – she probably has some Spanish in her genes – and has amassed a series of head shots that make her look like she can play characters from a variety of cultures. It’s a promising joke; Fasthorse’s satirical point is that the effort of woke white folks like Logan and Jaxton to do obeisance to all the current PC mandates (like the one against cultural appropriation) and popular assumptions of guilt (like the notion that any straight white person is de facto an abuser of privilege) ends up getting them hopelessly entangled in contradictions.