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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama


Melissa James Gibson

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To purchase [sic]

Title: [sic]
Author: Melissa James Gibson
Genre: Drama
Written: 2001
Length: 118 pages
Availability: [sic] - US
[sic] - UK
[sic] - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : often clever, interestingly experimental piece

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The New Criterion . 1/2002 Mark Steyn
New York F 14/1/2002 John Simon
The NY Observer A 10/12/2001 John Heilpern
The NY Times . 20/11/2001 Bruce Weber
Variety . 24/12/2001 Charles Isherwood
The Village Voice . 4/12/2001 Jessica Winter

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus

  From the Reviews:
  • "Their bumbling interaction could have been of comic interest were Gibson not seduced by the threadbare hand-me-downs of avant-gardism (...) Characters speak in unison, repeat phrases obsessively, deliver lines supine on the floor, break up sentences illogically, or mumble sotto voce. Rather than enhancements, these are roadblocks to communication and empathy. Bizarre effects that might once have at least had shock value now elicit smug complacency or Pavlovian salivation at putative profundities." - John Simon, New York

  • "(I)tís the best new comedy Iíve seen in many a season. (...) (H)owever nutty Ms. Gibsonís [sic] might appear, the piece never loses its moorings. We believe in her lost, off-the-wall characters bonding over wicked landlords and floating party anxiety or anything else that springs to mind. Theyíre us." - John Heilpern, The New York Observer

  • "Turn of phrase is far more important than twist of plot or depth of character here. (...) It's often the smart playwright we hear talking, not fully realized characters. (...) And brilliant as its individual sections are, the play eventually dries up into separate morsels of shtick rather than becoming an organic whole" - Charles Isherwood, Variety

  • "The title of Gibson's play is never fully accounted for, though it variously connotes existential illness, blindsiding attack (the characters' ruthless honesty with each other is equal parts tough-love candor and projectile cruelty), and some error that is recognized but allowed to stand, for the sake of an accurate record. [sic] is accordingly a bittersweet, frequently hilarious catalog of mistakes, regrets, opportunities missed or botched. (...) Gibson's play is dry-eyed, tough-minded, resolutely absurdist, and yet nowhere near cynical." - Jessica Winter, The Village Voice

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Melissa James Gibson explains the title of her play in a prefatory "playwright's note on performance":

Sic, of course, is a Latin term that appears in writing, as a signal to the reader that an apparent mistake is in fact an accurate citation. This notion of distancing oneself from responsibility informs the three main characters of the play, who exist at arm's length from their own situations, as if their real lives were yet to be inhabited.
       The three main characters in the play are neighbours in a prewar New York City apartment building, Babette, Frank, and Theo. All are in their thirties. Babette is working on an "Outbursts Text" ("a book of / of / Seminal Outbursts you know Outbursts that Went / Somewhere Got Something Done"). Theo, whose wife recently left him, is trying to compose the score for an amusement park ride, Thrill-o-rama. Meanwhile, the homosexual Frank has set his sights on becoming an auctioneer, practicing tongue-twisters and the like.
       The three are drawn together -- one assumes by their mutual inability to fend for themselves. Babette and Theo even have an affair (not, apparently, a very successful one). Outside figures who don't appear on stage are also of some significance, in particular Larry, who brought them all together and continues to be an important figure to them. (Other characters are heard -- the voices of a neighbour, a delivery person -- but not seen; an "Airshaft Couple" did appear in the Soho Rep. production but can equally well also be understood only to be a pair of off-stage voices.)
       The play is dominated by the characters aimlessness and desperation. Money is in short supply and each pins their vague hopes on unattainable goals: Theo can barely compose a note, Frank clearly isn't auctioneer-material, and Babette's book sounds quite out of control. Their personal lives -- the tepid affair between Theo and Babette (that also seems little more than an outburst), Frank and Theo's longings for those who aren't interested in them any longer -- also offer no fulfilment.
       The three provide support for each other, but mainly merely through their presences. Fear and doubt prevent them from truly relying on one another, and generous gestures -- like Frank offering Theo some ideas for catchy tunes for his Thrill-o-rama composition -- are cruelly squashed.
       The play offers some dramatic arc, but it isn't really plot driven. [sic] is a character study (or character studies). Among the scenes -- not always where one might expect them are: "The Exposition Scene", "Several Pseudo Scenes of Love Thwarted at Every Turn", and "The Interrogation Scene".
       The play is written with "line breaks, internal capitalizations, and lack of punctuation". Gibson explains:
These are intended as guidelines to the characters' thought processes, in terms of emphasis and pattern; they should be honored, but should not enslave the actor.
       They also suggest to the reader what one might expect in the staged play better than the more conventional presentation of the text would have.
       [sic] is meant to be performed; it isn't a text that sits all too comfortably on the page. It does read quite well, because many of the scenes offer clever verbal bits. Gibson has a good ear for real-life dialogue, and many of the exchanges are fun. The weakness -- especially on the page -- is in the larger whole, which doesn't come all too neatly together. This is probably easier to overlook when the play is performed (rather than read). In addition, many of the effects (including the off-stage voices, Frank practicing with his auction tape, and a bit with a window that keeps getting opened and closed) also surely work better in performance.

       Gibson shows considerable dramatic flair with [sic] -- not of the action-packed variety, but of the literary sort. She explores what can be done on the stage and comes up with some decent new takes. Her characters are not very sympathetic (and their self-indulgent plights quite frustrating) but she still fashions a reasonably interesting play around them.

       (Point of interest: almost all the reviewers thought the three main characters to be twentysomethings -- leading (?) Gibson to explicitly state in the prefatory note:
The main characters are all in their thirties, well past the point when being a wunderkind is a viable option -- a fact whose repercussions are very present.)

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[sic]: Reviews: Melissa James Gibson: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama under review

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About the Author:

       Melissa James Gibson attended Columbia University and the Yale School of Drama.

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© 2002-2010 the complete review

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