I find myself once again seeing a play I did not care for at all. This play written by a third year graduate student of University Nevada Las Vegas is one of the best examples of a play in dire need for a rewrite. Book of Nights sets you up for a scenario in Philadelphia, but instead becomes a story about Stella, a youngish girl with a heart problem. Problem is what does Philadelphia, all the lore and culture of the town, and Edgar Allen Poe have to do with that? The play is written in an expose type of stylization where segments of these characters’ lives are run together like a strange reality TV show done with an overbearing sense of melodrama. What happens when you run segments like this into a story?
What you get are incredibly forced transitions. The direction and staging for this show is incredibly disinteresting, and the fact that these segments are our motivation to keeping this interest is what makes it ultimately fail. Each actor leaving these scenes/segments literally has about 3 seconds on average to go from one set of emotions to another. The context is given to the audience via narration or interior monologues that do not serve the actors when they have to reach these places emotionally. What you will get is one actress being happy in one scene to suddenly being tearful and falling apart in the next. This inevitably causes the actors to have to force these performances in order to keep with this nerve wracking pace.
The acting does not even complement this pacing. Everything seems to be in a big hurry despite the fact the play leaves you feeling like hours have gone by when only 30 minutes have ticked away in the first act. One of the best examples of how this play fails in setting up its conflict is when Melanie Ash’s character has to leave, but then reemerges in order to donate her heart. If the conflict was that she left (although we don’t know the importance of this till later), then this makes her returning absolutely pointless. And if the return was pointless, then by extension the disappearance was also pointless. That’s just one example of one defective circuit in the messy computer board. The play’s structure also is not defined. I don’t remember really recognizing a three-act structure. If it was pre-heart problems, staying at hospital, and finale at hospital, then that’s a truly disinteresting and dull structure.
The stage itself was a very bland set up. I understood the need for it to be simple, but making a table turn into a hospital bed made me think of bad Hollywood B films. The images of Philadelphia and other historical figures was a total waste of visual decoration and the production’s musical score was totally forgettable. It’s interesting to know that I knew of Melanie Ash because she went to LVA with me and that I thought her character was the most interesting, but even I was surprised to see a very inconsistent performance from her in terms of attitude and speech patterns. Oh well, just another example of a play where nothing works, no effort can be seen, and nothing redeemable can be said at all.