Sexual comedy as absurdity: A review of Lisa Soland’s ‘Waiting’
The Maryville College Theatre Department performed MC adjunct and playwright Lisa Soland’s original comedic work, “Waiting” from May 2-5.
The short play examined the lives of 12 characters whose interweaving stories and experiences explored the overarching theme of whether or not they had waited for marriage to have sex.
I applaud the cast of “Waiting,” a mix of Maryville College students and community members, for their deft handling and lively performance of dialogue that could be called, on its best day, rote.
As one scene passed onto the next, to a jangling soundtrack of early 90s pop-rock, each successive pairing of actors played more and more into expected, archetypal narratives about sex – “we do everything but it,” and an extended take on a first date, “we didn’t wait,” drinking straw as phallic symbol ploy. The culmination of “Waiting,” which took place entirely in a nondescript waiting room, was an appropriately obvious metaphorical end that brought the audience full circle, a heavy-handed move we indeed needed.
Soland got laughs, but these laughs came often at the expense of integrity. Whether these “jokes” hit negatively at an off-stage gay couple (the night’s most off-putting moment by far) or an over-simplification of every college female as ditsy and hyper-sexual, they seemed more intended to pander to an audience that more wanted slapstick and shocking punch lines than to be challenged, or even asked, to think about the deeper issues that supposedly were said to reside at the heart of the work.
I do want to praise the overall technical and stage management of the production. The atmosphere created and maintained by those behind the scenes was, from the start, inviting and intriguing. The diagonal division of the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Haslam Family Flex Theatre was an interesting departure from previous performances conducted in the space. Each of the actors, as well, took their characters to a level that was consistently entertaining and maintained an atmosphere of fun, regardless of my several reservations.
Overall, sadly, “Waiting” offered very little more on a constructive level than the parade of white privilege excess and vapid, regressive sentiments of 1990s Los Angeles that it sought it to present.
If Soland was attempting absurdist theater – a careful take on the ways in which our culture projects its neuroses about sex back upon itself, in increasingly more unbelievable caricature – she succeeded overwhelmingly. If she was attempting to provide her audience with a realistic depiction of how any actual person deals with issues of sexuality, I’m afraid that I, preeminent critic of the theater that I am, was left both confused and, quite literally, waiting.