Friday, September 23, 2011

NBC Thursdays


This week on Ciera and Nick's soon to be canceled NBC bad couple comedy...Well, we ran out of ideas already, but look forward to three seasons of this crap. We'll call it, “Joey.”

Anyways, I have been taking in media recently. My most recent outing was to go see “Take Me America.” It is was an excellently done production without the lyrics or story to back what was otherwise an incredible 90 minute show. The show is about people applying for asylum in the US and it goes through a day in the life of the people that inhabit our asylum offices. If you believe that is a boring and taxing version of your workplace, you are right. If you remove the songs and the one dimensional comedy relief from the story, you are left with inept bureaucrats that can't find the 'human' connection except through contrivance. So you add some musical numbers that are uplifting to the spirit. But those are dull and unoriginal (most of them repeat the tag-line over and over again until the song is done). Take Me America, the title song, suffers from the problem of repetition until it is over; literally 90 percent of the song is people singing some variation on “take me America.”

There is no clear character development or choice. Everyone is a flat metaphor for a system that is supposed to be human but comes off as cold as the monolithic filing cabinets that make up its set. The play is so heavy handed that it borders on insensitive, leading me to question if the author had done any research other than to watch a 90 minute documentary that served as the inspiration for the play. I also wonder how any actors of an ethnic nature would agree to sign on to this play due to its clear ignorance of foreign lands.

But perhaps it is the distinctly American play, seen through an American's eyes. The 'protagonist'--a young clean cut white male—suffers throughout the play trying to decide whether to follow the law or find his humanity. Ultimately, some are let into the country and told they can finally be “American.” This is further enforced by a projection of the American flag and the statue of liberty in the background. If this doesn't feel over-the-top yet, it gets better. Aside from no character depth, there is no real sense of history with the characters seeking asylum. The Sudanese man talks about owning cows and how great that is, then talks about torture. The Albanian woman with the French accent talks about the horrors of genital mutilation. The main character's 'tough' history of a recent break-up is given passing commentary (the play falls into unintentional self-commentary/parody when one character yells at the main guy, “we have only scratched the surface of your life, and you think you can judge me”). And at the end two of the characters completely disappear or die in the real world, given only a line of dialogue and no time for the audience to reflect. By that time the audience is supposed to applaud and be happy for these poor ethnics who are now American citizens.

The play utterly misses the gravity and emotion that accompanies such a difficult decision. The real insights come in glossed over lines that have the meat of the story. Instead it feels like filler between numbers, the cast is just waiting to sing and bow for the audience that walks away feeling satisfied off the empty calories of swelling music and empty lyrics.

The process for gaining asylum in the US remains one of the most difficult in the world, and even though we call ourselves a nation of immigrants, we do not hold our arms out wide and take the poor and tired. Take Me America only enforces our inflated self-image and does nothing to shed light on the actual process of gaining asylum in the United States.

Also saw the new Community and Office. The Office might crash and burn with Andy as the manager (sorry for the spoiler if you couldn't see it last night).