Reviewed by Gregor Collins
Sara Farrington and Reid Farrington, who wrote and directed BrandoCapote respectively, should strut down Off-Off-Broadway Boulevard like they own it. Because on one hand they could make a case that they do. They’ve concocted a fairly original evening of theater that combines three seemingly incompatible elements: Noh Theater (a 14th Century Japanese performance art involving music, dance and drama), iconic Actor Marlon Brando’s filmography, and a 1957 magazine profile of Brando by writer Truman Capote. And visually at times it gave us something to grab onto.
But then there’s the other side of the coin: When something is too abstruse and ambitious to have any lasting resonance. To be honest, I walked out of this show feeling absolutely nothing. I’ll get to that in a second.
First, I’m going to include, word-for-word, the synopsis from their press release, and then I’ll tell you why I copy/pasted it instead of writing it myself:
“Disguised as an interview, BrandoCapote evolves into our own version of In Cold Blood, Capote’s true crime masterwork. In BrandoCapote, like In Cold Blood, Capote puts a human face on an inhuman act, exposing generations of toxic masculinity, abuse and violence, while exorcising the demons of American celebrity.”
Why didn’t I write it in my own words? Because, for all the money in the world, I would not have been able to tell you what I saw. I certainly didn’t feel what the press release wanted me to feel. Now, not achieving a firm grasp of what I saw wasn’t really the problem I had with it. For me at least, true art isn’t about clarity, or tying things up in a bow. No, the problem I had with BrandoCapote wasn’t the “not following what was going on” part—it was the part where no part of it made me look at anything in a new or different way. It was too cluttered and confusing for that.
Sometimes something that’s so visually dazzling and moving is all you need to carry it home with you. But this show wasn’t it.
Storytelling that is abstract and nonlinear, like BrandoCapote, shouldn’t sacrifice making you feel something. Here are four personal examples of “abstract” art that stick with me to this day:
Paintings by Mark Rothko.
Films by David Lynch.
Songs by Guided by Voices.
Opera by Richard Wagner.
My intention is not to compare BrandoCapote to these four examples, it’s just that you can’t simply conceive something original, write an erudite synopsis, make an enigmatic poster, put it up on stage, and then fail to make it actually resonate with an audience. What’s the point? The Farringtons valiantly packed in so many interesting art forms—Brando movie clips, Capote sound bites, Noh costumes, discordant sounds, movement repetitions—that it became a wash, akin to standing in the middle of Times Square and trying desperately to find meaning in the chaos.
The only way I recommend seeing this show is if you want to walk away inspired to do what BrandoCapote, in my eyes, failed to do—come up with something that actually has you thinking about it.
Originality is overrated if it disappears into obscurity.
BrandoCapote at The Tank (312 W. 36th St, NY)
Direct Link to Tickets: https://rb.gy/d90865