If you live in the Salem, Oregon area and enjoy going to plays, check out the Willamette University Theatre offerings. For a long time my wife and I had season tickets to Pentacle Theatre, but we came to yearn for edgier, less predictable plays.
Belatedly, we discovered Salem Repertory Theatre; unfortunately, just before SRT went out of business. Liking the SRT style (basically, anything goes), we were enthused with the first Willamette University Theatre production we went to, "Aquitania."
I didn't understand it, which I assumed meant that it was a deep, thought-provoking, mind-blowing play. Regardless, I'd rather be confused by a play than be bored by it.
"Smash" is the kickoff to Willamette University Theatre's (WUT) new season. It's based on a George Bernard Shaw novel about socialism. Up until intermission I didn't understand Smash very well either. But that's one reason intermissions exist.
So a woman can explain to her significant other (a.k.a. confused husband) what is really happening in the play.
In my defense, there are a lot of words in Smash.
I had the feeling that (1) the playwright, Jeffrey Hatcher, wanted to get a lot of thoughts across in a limited time, and (2) the WUT actors wanted to express those many thoughts rapidly in believable English accents so the audience members would be immersed in a flow of oft-complex verbiage which would carry them along in more of a feeling than thinking drama consciousness vessel.
Or maybe my brain just wasn't working very well during the first act.
Support for that hypothesis is found in the fact that when we walked into the lobby at intermission and I told my wife "This play is really hard to make sense of," she replied, "What are you talking about?"
Laurel agreed with me that the rapid-fire English accents could be tough to decipher at times. But in quick succession she cleared up a number of questions that had me baffled through much of Act 1.
(My wife is a retired psychotherapist, so it isn't surprising that she could pick up on narrative subtleties or obvious'ties which eluded me.)
Q. Why doesn't Henrietta recognize the husband, Sidney, who left her at the altar, post-marriage, when all he's done to disguise himself is grow a mustache?
A. She does! Didn't you get this? She obviously recognized him, but she didn't want anyone else to know this.
Q. Why did Henrietta say that would-be socialist Sidney disappeared because he was abducted, rather than speaking the truth: that he left her at the altar because he feared that marriage would dilute his pro-socialist zeal?
A. What did I just tell you?! Henrietta can't let on to her father, or anyone else, that she recognizes Sidney, so the abduction story was made up.
Intermission went on in this vein.
I was pleased to have Smash explained to me, but my male ego was pretty much, well, smashed by the time Act 2 started.
I started to worry about my general ability to understand human interactions, but then rationalized away that anxiety by telling myself that most people in my life don't have English accents, and they don't talk as fact as the WUT actors.
Embarassingly, after the play was over my wife -- rather gleefully -- got to explain to me what "Smash" alluded to, after I'd expressed my meta-perplexity about the title of the play.
The lesson for me here, which I'll take to heart, is to read the entire Director's Notes before a play starts, instead of using the restroom. (Or ideally, getting to a play early enought to do both.)
Laurel had remembered reading that Hatcher wanted to show how becoming too "preachy" about a social cause can be as off-putting as a Jehovah's Witness at your door. Yes, socialism or semi-socialism or slight-socialism has a lot of pluses. However, trying to smash those who resist what you're advocating usually isn't the best way to influence people.
My wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed Smash (me, especially after I understood it, more or less).
We were impressed with the fine acting of each and every member of the cast. I thought Josh Rice did a particularly good job playing Sidney, though the dramatic expressiveness of Margaret Smith, who played a girl's school headmistress, also was hugely entertaining.
It was refreshing to be exposed to a play that we'd never heard of, yet was about a subject that is as topical today as it was back in the late 1800's: how to change the world without being a total asshole about it.