Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for August 18th, 2015

Fringe Festival 2015 Review: The Wreck of the Spanish Armada

Posted by metaphorical on 18 August 2015

1h 30m
VENUE #14: The White Box at 440 Studios
Performance seen: Sat 15 4:45

There’s a scene in the movie Real Genius where Val Kilmer’s character tries to fly a remote-controlled helicopter around his dorm room. When it crashes, he asks his roommate, “Would you qualify that as a launch problem or a design problem?” When the all-too-well-named The Wreck of the Spanish Armada crashes, it’s clearly a failure of design, though in fact, like Chris Knight’s helicopter, it barely gets off the ground before failing.

When a hotel bellhop, wearing Errol Flynn’s pirate garb from the Sea Hawk, lingers after carrying a woman’s luggage (five perfectly matched Samsonite cases, just to deliver a conference keynote), and then pours her champagne, and then pours some for himself, he’s clearly not a hotel bellhop. Yet she fails to recognize him as her former lover of 30 years ago—even though he has the same unusual name, Drake (as in Sir Francis Drake, of defeating-the-Spanish-Armada fame. Much—way too much—is made of this.)

The coincidences don’t stop there. In the intervening years, her eventual husband became an oil trader on Wall Street, and Drake has become a Somali pirate whose specialty is stealing oil tankers—not for reasons of revenge, because, apparently, the one was a husband and oil trader before the other was a pirate. I say apparently, because it’s impossible to make sense of the story’s timeline, though it’s discussed endlessly. Nor of the character’s motivations, though they too are endlessly discussed.

In fact, the entire play, except its improbable opening minute, and its bookend, an utterly nonsensical final minute, consists of exposition and explanation, much of it of backstory known to both characters.

Except what they conveniently don’t know. Or conveniently mistake or misremember. “Remember when I picked you up at the airport last night?” Drake asks, as if he were an airport redcap, instead of a hotel bellhop, and as if she had arrived at night, instead of in the morning on a redeye flight with a breakfast over Dublin (part of the improbable opening minute). Would that I could misremember, or just plain forget, this entire play.

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