Off Broadway Theater Review: MASSACRE (SING TO YOUR CHILDREN) (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater)

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by Harvey Perr on April 21, 2012

in Theater-New York

BLOODY MASSACRE, DULL SONG

As they march through (or are flung through) the doors of an abandoned slaughterhouse, their bodies bloodied, one wonders what battle zone of what war they have come from.  But it turns out that this group of survivors have merely killed a mean neighbor.  Who would have thought there’d be so much blood killing just one man?  Well, of course, they have killed much more; they have killed a piece of themselves.  It is an arresting premise, but if you’re going to write a play of ideas, you should know something about life.   José Rivera’s Massacre (Sing to Your Children) is overstuffed with words and, because they come from the mouths of actors rather than the characters they are portraying, they lose their distinctiveness and their power and become hollow, numbing arias.  Rattlestick Playwrights Theater presents José Rivera’s Massacre (Sing to Your Children) – directed by Brian Mertes – photo by Sandra CoudertTheir director, Brian Mertes, seems more interested in creating vivid stage pictures than in defining who these people are.  So the images make impressions, but the play gets buried under the weight of its words.  Ultimately, we care less and less about who these people are and why they’ve done the terrible thing they have done.

In the second act, the words do become more distinctive – thanks primarily to the commanding presence of Anatol Yusef, the embodiment of the man they killed, because he grounds his character in distinctive behavior.  But in revealing that the murderers are hiding their own sins, what he exposes is neither shocking nor illuminating enough.  And then, when every possible “idea” is expressed, and the play seems finally to have exhausted itself, it takes even more time and space speaking even more stultifying platitudes.

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater presents José Rivera’s Massacre (Sing to Your Children) – directed by Brian Mertes – photo by Sandra CoudertThe only virtue of Massacre is that it demonstrates how messy murder is.  But, unless you need the visceral proof before you, this is hardly an original idea.

photos by Sandra Coudert

Massacre (Sing to Your Children)
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
scheduled to end on May 12, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.rattlestick.org/

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