Posted by Broadway Doctor Tuesday, November 9, 2010
What Spirit Control does Wrong:
1) The second act takes place 10 years later. This was the first and obvious mistake of the production. Why are we focused on Adam's life as a whole? Is it so the ending has a parallel to the beginning? If this is the case, the author takes too long, and presents too much filler to get there. It's as if he had the idea of the beginning and the end, and didn't know how to fix the play without a large gap of time. But it's not just 10 years, it becomes an entire lifetime span. If this is where the plot is heading, then why attempt to put the first act in one time period, then fast-forward after the intermission? It seems to me that the traumatic event in the beginning of this play should serve only as a prologue, not an entire act. We should see where the character is "now" not in the past. It's too obvious that the author uses the "changing technology" as a device to age the protagonist. He works at a cell phone store, and each scene they get more and more advanced as mentioned through exposition. The poor guy does goes through a series of jobs before this one in the second act, which rapidly increases his age and deteriorating social/family circumstances. This is why the play feels like a film, because the montages and devices are like those of a film. If this is a play about time, then there should be a pattern and each advancement in time should be an advancement toward the plot. It's ultimately ineffective, because we don't know what the plot is. It seems aimless.
2) You feel sorry for him, but you don't feel that he is tortured enough. If he truly has post-traumatic stress we should see this. This should be the entire internal struggle of the story. Yes, the author makes him sympathetic, but the author also makes you hate his son, which is unnecessary. You should want him to reunite with his son, but you know the son will never forgive his father. Adam's mental state needs to deteriorate, and his addiction to the other woman needs to be something that interferes with his normal life. This should be the same as a story about a man kicking heroin, he needs to conquer his demons in the end, or be conquered by them. Instead, it's more like a dud firework that fizzles into nothing.
3) Not enough mystery. *SPOILER ALERT* (as if there weren't already) The big question is, "Is the woman entirely imagined, or did he actually meet her in the first bar scene? The audience is so distracted by this mystery, that they don't realize it's irrelevance. The story is pretty simple isn't it? The man loses family, tries to get back family, and in the end... what happens? There shouldn't be a question about the existence of the woman, it should be about whether the man can conquer his demons, as stated in #2. Because the ending is so vague, and indirect, one has to think the biggest mystery is whether the woman ever existed. But we know what she represents, why can't the audience wonder, "what did he do wrong?" That's the question in a tragedy. What did the protagonist do, and what could he have done differently? The audience ultimately learns nothing from the character, but instead wonders, "I wonder if she was always imaginary?"
This play is good, and well written from a great playwright, and screenwriter, but I wonder if it wouldn't have been better as a film first? The pace and devices would translate better on film. You lose a lot of imagery and internalization of the protagonist. He never has any monologues/soliloquies where he expresses his inner feelings to the audience, so it might as well be a movie right?