I had a true Boston theatrical experience tonight.
I texted my apathetic Allston landlord that my toilet still won’t flush, took the T to the South End, inhaled some pizza and beer, and then bought one of the last tickets for Splendor, a new play by Kirsten Greenidge that closes at Company One this weekend.
Splendor is quite an achievement. It’s a fascinating production, and it became obvious almost immediately that I was in a room with an incredibly talented ensemble.
However, what made the production even more magical was its audience, a collection of Bostonians from a variety of different backgrounds who identified with Greendige’s characters every step of the way.
I’ve really never seen an audience so engaged. And Splendor is no 90-minute one-act. No sir. It’s a heart-wrenching two-and-a-half hour thrill ride that doesn’t hesitate to show you the dark side of Boston’s history.
This is the direction that theatre needs to go. This was a production written by a Bostonian, produced by Bostonians, and performed for Bostonian’s. There are so many American “holiday plays” out there, and Company One took it one step further and made it local. They reached out to their audience and tonight I am so happy to tell you I saw an audience reaching back.
Commerical theatre can be so detached. It’s a shame that I don’t have the time or money to go down to New York right now and see Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart play Didi & Gogo, but it’s plays like Splendor that make me say “Who gives a fuck?” and take another sip of my Naragansett (which they were selling in the lobby for $3.50, by the way. Take that, Shubert Organization. Enjoy your $15 Budweisers).
You won’t find a connection like the one I experienced tonight at the big theatres in New York.
I’ve only lived in Boston for two years, but this play made me feel like I’ve been living here my whole life. I can only imagine what a lifelong resident of Roxbury or Quincy took from tonight’s show.
And when I think about those lifelong residents, I think about my hometown, and all the stories that can, and should, grace the stages of Cleveland, Ohio.
Every city in this country is full of stories. Every city has a Splendor to perform and a local beer to sell in the theatre’s lobby.
This is not to say that Splendor couldn’t be performed anywhere. It certainly could, and probably with great success. But the sensation of watching it in a Boston audience? That can never be replicated.