Project Arts Centre: Space Upstairs
This magnificent send-up of James Lipton’s Inside the Actors Studio is the latest play to feel like a direct response to #MeToo. What sets Brokentalkers and Adrienne Truscott’s fruitful collaboration apart is how it resembles an outward sign of inward changes: an industry reckoning with its own direction.
On the set of an absurd talk show, Truscott appears as a laughably macho playwright whose adversarial new drama is igniting the gender wars. (The sideburn-scratching pretentiousness of early 1990s Greenwich Village will feel like a specific flashpoint for anyone who remembers the depressing uproar accompanying David Mamet's Oleanna.)
If anything is to be gained from the skewered machismo of a male artist bleeding at his typewriter, inscribing quotes on penknives and carrying a shotgun like an accessory, it might be the desire to purge a broken system. Opposite Truscott’s playwright sits a bluff interviewer (Feidlim Cannon) whose questioning devolves into a bungling pep talk, as if art criticism is complicit in preserving myths about male geniuses.
The performers begin to bicker, Adrienne Truscott as a woman feeling censored, Feidlim Cannon as a man searching more for a shield than a show
Brokentalkers are no strangers to culture-rattling narratives but their interpretations can be deeply cynical. Cannon is sly at embodying ironies, but it is Truscott’s fathomless range as a comedian, finding gags where you don’t expect, that offers an opportunity to ridicule, to demolish.
As the interviewer reads a scene from the playwright’s play, unchecked aggression filters into lingering references: woeful bullying in the workplace, the insolence of male entitlement. Both performers begin to bicker as collaborators, Truscott as a woman feeling censored, Cannon as a man searching more for a shield than a show.
That Masterclass ends with an insoluble problem, with one person insisting on the removal of privileged voices and the other clinging to survival, resists any easy moral. It’s a bolder gamble to express the anxieties of the age. From fury to rectification, there’s little budge.