Power Play

Though the powerful can be perverse, those who try to curry favor with the powerful are often even more so. Jean-Paul Sartre considered Jean Genet's Deathwatch to be reiteration of themes explored in the playwright's more famous effort, The Maids. Locked away in a cramped prison cell, two petty criminals vie for the approval of their idol, an illiterate murder by the name of Green Eyes. Genet's poetic thieves and killers conflate power, violence, and masculinity in their battle for dominance, but when one of them finally strikes out to establish his position, he discovers that glory is not so easily obtained. Aaron Sparks' production, currently running in the Fringe Festival, is billed as the US premiere of David Rudkin's translation of the play. Unfortunately, the lackluster production makes it impossible to judge the quality of Rudkin's rendering. Taking his cue from all-male productions of The Maids, Sparks has cast women in Deathwatch. Though interesting in principle, this concept falters because Sparks' company fails to embody the destructive machismo and barely-concealed homoeroticism which are central to Genet's drama.

Sparks' company also seems hesitant to dive into Genet's dingy underworld. Only Carissa Cordes as Green Eyes projects the hardened, guarded aspect of a prisoner. Meanwhile, the whole cast speaks with a drama-school crispness and uniformity which is inconsistent with the world of the play. Rather than tracing the delicate shifts in alliance which are central to characters' journeys, the cast plows through Genet's poetic text, making the production particularly difficult to follow. Consequently, the ninety-minute show crawls, offering neither entertainment or surprise to the audience; this one is worth passing by.

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