"Affordable Housing"

I saw Carol Marshall's latest creation last night, staged in San Francisco by the Three Wise Monkeys Theatre Company. Here is the 30-second synopsys:

The setting is a youngish couple's public storage unit, where they've just moved in. They're making a dinner of Mac and Cheese over a hot plate, telling each other how lucky they are to be saving on rent and utilities, being that, though they are both employed, money is tight due to the hi-tech layoffs that have set both their careers back. A cop comes by to check up on what he thought were prowlers, and he's about to reprimand their living situation when he sees the dinner concoction. He stays for a spell, and tells the couple all about his wife's obsession with the Home Decorating Channel and her hot-glue gun activities and her need to prepare gourmet meals. The couple comforts him with a tale about how they, too, went through the same problem, and the woman's husband had to call an intervention to get her out of it. The cop leaves, having made new friends, and determined to help his own wife through her delerium. The couple settles into a night of box-wine, snuggling, and Yatzee. Fin.

Well, in this reviewer's completely unbiased and objective opinion, it was absolutely hysterical. Marshall has once again captured the quintissential satire of modern life. The caricatures were true to life, and being only slightly skewed from so-called middle-class normalcy, their antics were both believable and lovable. At the same time they are just set far enough apart from reality to remind the audience that this is satire. Marshall has never strayed from her upbeat, shall we say, "light" satire. The grim public storage is transformed into a accomodating home, beautiful to the eyes of the beholders, i.e. the protaganists. Furthermore, her characters are genuine; they are making the best of a dismal situation. And they are happy. I can see the tempation to cast the characters as a dreary couple trying to convince themselves that they are happy when they are, in fact, not. Marshall's couple doesn't suffer from these congitive dissonances. The wife is happy that they don't have DSL and hot water. The husband is a little less contented, but the worst of his life is that he isn't going out that night to get a free pink-slip drink, after all, his kind wife reminds him, he is employed.

What I'd like to see: I'd like to see Marshall's play acted out without the scripts in the hands of the actors. I know that for this performance it was a necessity, but some of the comedic timing was lost as the actors peeked at their scripts. Also, I think Marshall can add even more satire to her script. Should the man of the couple be smoking an old fashioned pipe while his wife toils away at dinner? The juxtoposition of 1950's middle-class caricatures against the harsh modern realities is a real delight for the audience. I think there is room for more flogging of the stereotypes, both traditional and modern. Or perhaps Marshall should save up all her genius for her next opus. I'm looking forward to it.


At 8/3/04, 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, thanks, I know it's "unbiased". My next Opus should be soon. :-)

I love the cigar idea. She could bring him his slippers even.

It was so cool to have you guys there! I had a great night all around. Thanks for the flowers, I proudly carried them on to the BART train.


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