Tuesday, 10 April 2012


I saw Dionysus in Stony Mountain at the Rachel Browne Theatre on April 3. The play was complex and some reviews have referred to it as intellectual. It features a Stony Mountain inmate named James (Ross McMillan), who questions his psychiatrist's (Sarah Constible) role in the justice system. The play, which was written by Steven Ratzlaff, happens in two acts.

I left the theatre thinking it was a good thing it accommodates only a small audience because I don’t believe Dionysus in Stony Mountain will ever see a sold out performance. The language was complicated, and the sentences (sometimes passages) were lengthy. Many times James simply quoted Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century German philosopher who became of interest to James when he stopped taking his medication. I study playwriting at Prairie Theatre Exchange and I have learned it is unwise to make your audience feel stupid. While I did not necessarily feel stupid when I left, I did not feel like I understood the play.

I read that Ratzlaff is personally interested in Nietzsche’s work and I feel as though he used the play as a medium to expand on his own interests, theories, and ideas. When I try to see it from his perspective, it occurs to me that he may believe that theatre goers will significantly benefit from learning Nietzsche’s work, and some of his own ideas. Unfortunately, a playwright must write for an audience, not for oneself. I mean, I would love to write a play about my cat Dusty and the way she lets me hold her foot when she goes to sleep, and how I use Carbon by MAC to pencil in my eyebrows, and the gap between my two front teeth. Hell, I could even throw in some passages from Fran Lebowitz's Metropolitan Life, but those things are not interesting to everyone. Maybe cats, makeup, dentistry, and New York City generally interest people, but not my own personal thoughts on each one.

I am disappointed because the Canadian justice system and offenders are interests that I pursue outside of learning about them at school or in the news. Before seeing the play, I expected that there was a chance for theatre about this topic to provoke thought and maybe even action on behalf of the audience. 

For me, it provoked regret that I did not stay home and watch Monster for the 31st time.  

I should have stayed home with you, babe.

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