At the post performance talk back this past Sunday afternoon of Adam Rapp’s The Metal Children at the Vineyard Theatre, Mr. Rapp declared not to be a “political” writer. He simply writes plays. But his current tome raises very politicizing arguments – about censorship. So, I guess he could be considered a political activist playwright who fairly shows both sides of the argument with humor and conviction.
In any event, the production which is also directed by Mr. Rapp, is excellent even though it wanders off into Twin Peaks territory at times. Which is not a bad thing. The Metal Children is a stab at satirizing the element of Middle America that would remove from the school curriculum books that deal with subjects that they (moral Christians) do not deem correct to be read by young adults. Subjects such as teen pregnancy, suicide, drugs and abortion – somewhat akin to the Texas Text Book Massacre that is ongoing as this is being written.
Tobin Falmouth – a name that could have come from a Restoration Comedy if pronounced FoulMouth and it eventually is – is the author in question. He is a total mess. Staying put in his apartment, late with his new manuscript, drinking and carousing with a sleazy neighbor and getting high on weed. Just your typical, young adult novelist trying to get his life together. His more successful wife (also a writer) has just left him and to top it off all copies of his book -The Metal Children – have been seized and locked up in the vault of the Good Church of Christ in Midlothia.
Tobin is portrayed with concentrated skill by Billy Crudup who is called upon to do more reacting than acting. He is terrific. But his character is not very likable and just gets himself more and more into the abyss that he seems to like wallowing in despite the help from his agent (a very funny David Greenspan) and the sixteen year old supporter of his book, Vera (a fine Phoebe Strole whose voice unfortunately fades out in Act II and we miss some important lines). Acting like some rock star groupie she has unprotected sex with her literary idol which has obvious consequences.
Confused and conflicted, Tobin reluctantly goes to defend his book at a town meeting in response to a letter written by teacher Stacey Kinsella (an excellent Connor Barrett) extolling its virtues and inviting him to Midlothia where teen girls are becoming pregnant and have gone missing, being replaced by statues just like the characters in Tobin’s book – The Metal Children. How easily influenced are these teen girls by fiction is what is at the root of the problem. Of course he and his followers meet violent resistance.
Guy Boyd, Susan Blommaert, Halley Wegryn Gross and Betsy Aidem turn in excellent portrayals of the townsfolk. The sets by David Korins are multi tasking attributes and the incidental music David Van Tieghem pulsates with menace.
In liberal New York City we take it for granted that such subject matter should be allowed to be read or seen. The Metal Children should ideally be produced in Midlothia but it probably would be banned. Even in liberal New York two women left after the first act. The debate, or should I say battle continues. Through June 13th. www.vineyardtheatre.org Photo: Sara Krulwich