Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of Ethan Coen's A PLAY IS A POEM at Mark Taper Forum?
The cast includes, in alphabetical order, Ro Boddie, Max Casella, Micaela Diamond, Peter Jacobson, Jason Kravits, Nellie McKay, Saul Rubinek, Miriam Silverman, Joey Slotnick, Sam Vartholomeos and CJ Wilson.
The creative team features scenic design by Riccardo Hernández, costume design by Sarah Laux, lighting design by Tyler Micoleau, sound design by Leon Rothenberg with original music by Nellie McKay, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe and fight direction by Steve Rankin. The production stage manager is David S. Franklin.
"A Play Is a Poem" is a new collection of five one acts by Ethan Coen set in the hillbilly hollows of Appalachia, the executive suites of Hollywood, a New York tenement apartment, the smoke-filled office of a Los Angeles private eye and a magnolia-scented gazebo in Natchez, Mississippi. Each place holds a different story - together they offer an eccentric look at life across America that only Ethan Coen could deliver.
Peter Debruge, Variety: With all due respect to Ethan Coen, a poem is a poem, a play is a play, and "A Play Is a Poem" isn't much of either, although that doesn't make this 105-minute evening at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum a failure so much as a case of false advertising. This isn't the first time Coen has written for the stage, although he seems to be most comfortable with one-act sketches, which is more or less what we get here: five short theater pieces, stitched together with curious musical interludes (the only common thread, apart from the rotating ensemble of 10), in which Coen projects audiences into different situations and time periods.
Dany Margolies, Los Angeles Daily News: Despite our best efforts, there's not much else we can make of this script. In this intermissionless collection, Coen has gathered clichés and taken them on a joyride, from which at least one person in his audience felt completely excluded.
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: All of this is to say that a play can indeed be poem. But "A Play Is a Poem" is a pretentious title for such hackwork. Coen writes one-acts in the hoary tradition of vignettes, sketches, curtain-raisers. The closest these five playlets come to Beckett is in the refusal of meaning to turn up. Were it not for the filmmaking allure of the Coen name, it's hard to imagine the Taper bothering at all with these exercises in artistic self-indulgence.
Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz