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Spinning into Butter

by Rebecca Gilman

Has anyone seen the movie they made of this play? I checked out the trailer on IMDB - not impressed. I would be interested to hear people's thoughts on the stage-to-film adaptation..

I like Rebecca Gilman as a playwright but this is not my favorite of her plays. A while back I mentioned that mysteriously, I end up reading plays that have similar themes (or perhaps I just find things in common about the pieces I choose) .. apparently this week the theme is unsympathetic characters!

Sarah is the newest Dean at a small college campus in Vermont. She is brought on specifically to deal with issues of diversity and when a student begins to get threatening notes because he is black, Sarah is quick to defend. Gilman sets us up to fall in love with Sarah - her empathy for the students, her open mind, her ability to stand up to the other Deans.. and then we find out that it's sort of all an act and that Sarah, the voice of the minority student, the champion of diversity, is actually a secret racist. It's a big letdown. And yet, somehow realistic and human in a sad way. I think this play raises important questions and certainly reminds us that racism is still a hot-button issue and not a thing of the past.

When Sarah reveals her struggle to Ross, her ex-lover, he tells her that she is being a coward and that, "Even if you can't find the perfect solution, you should find the best you can and at least give it a try." She acknowledges that what she is feeling is wrong, she even tries to talk herself out of judging people unfairly but she just can't stop. When Ross tells her to open up a dialogue, she responds:
Public dialogue is never real dialogue. Nobody will admit to anything in a crowd. I mean, I can't believe that I'm the only person that feels this way.
She brings up a good point here - it's easy to say the right thing in public, when you're under pressure to do and be good. To tell the truth, as Sarah has, no matter how ugly, is the more difficult thing. They say the first step in solving your problem is admitting you have one. At least Sarah can admit that she is wrong, rather than saying one thing to a person's face and another behind their back.

There is a Yeats quote that is brought up during this conversation that rings so true to our political climate at the moment:
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
In my opinion, the best have conviction, the question is whether they can be heard over the screaming ignorance of the worst.

Enough of that.

Gilman blends nice moments of lighter fare throughout so that the piece is not bogged down by the weight of its subject matter. When speaking of a student's home, Meyers, Sarah's only friend on campus, comments:
The bathroom was nice. I guess it was a guest bathroom. They had the liquid soap in the dispenser, though, so you could really wash your hands. Sometimes people put little special soaps in the guest bathroom. Little soaps shaped like roses or something. I never know if I'm supposed to use them or just look at them. 
Yeah, but they're so pretty!

Tomorrow's Play: Iphigenia by P. Seth Bauer

1 comment:

Nicholas said...

I made it through about 5 minutes of the film before turning it off in disgust. I was curious, having done the show in college. It's not one of her best works (I recall saying it read like a Lifetime afterschool movie of the week). At the same time, everyone was making a stink that it was all about racism when, all of a sudden, our director looked at us all and said, play it like it's all about Political Correctness in universities. Made for a slightly better experience since it got us off the one beat hits of the racial note, but still, not her best work.


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