Monday, August 22, 2011



Success’ is 75 minutes of ad-man Rick Starling’s life – most of which you would sleep through. I did. Is it a distinction if a play deliberately doesn’t aspire to be engaging? I was wide awake through the lengths of ‘Gerry’; I even liked it. It’s one thing to be lifelike, it’s another to be in slow-motion. In that way, if Gus Van Sant’s film was ‘Waiting for Godot’ kind of absurdist, ‘Success’ is just plain absurd. It doesn’t seek your attention – it tests it. A champion concept if completely unsound, but the play doesn’t boast of a void. It’s half-empty at best, of inept experimentation.

“Some calls had to be taken”, Rick says to Aaliyah Nagir; she responds saying, “and some had to be made, I understand.” I don’t. Rick spends half the play on phone conversations, only one side of which we get to hear. He doesn’t look hectic or overindulgent – he says he wants more, but it doesn’t sound like he means it. He isn’t an Anthony Montana or a Gordon Gekko – he just acts like one and badly at that. It would be a different story if the effect was intentional, but the whole concept of the play works against that satirical note. It’s supposed to be a morality question. We think of films that have asked the same – ‘Network’, ‘Wall Street’, ‘the Devil’s Advocate’ – the list is endless. What had contributed to their acclaim were their unique abilities to engage the audience with their concept. But ‘Success’ seemed entirely disinterested to even remotely attempt that. It’s boring advice – how does it matter if it’s good?

Actress Deborah Clifton, as the mysterious Ms. Nagir, isn’t quite there with her Egyptian accent, which the ad-executive Mr. Starling (John Kishline, also Ms. Clifton’s real-life husband) points out. She says she attended college at the University of Wisconsin. I remembered a similar scenario in ‘Before Sunrise’, which was about ‘prowess in English’ than an ‘accent’. Here it seems more like an excuse for bad acting. The play succumbs to the slightest of logic. And I wonder what ‘Success’ it swapped that failure for. 

(I know the tag says 'I'm Out of Here!' but in reality, I sat through the whole length of the play. Except I was asleep for most parts, as is made evident right in the beginning)

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