Today I attended "In the Chamber", where two plays were shown, "Last Man in Krakendorf", and "Last Man in Puntarenas". It was certainly an interesting experience.
I liked "Last Man in Krakendorf" by Gordon Tanner better. It was a very dark monologue performed by a character who is feeling anger about factory farming, and the hog barn fire in a Manitoba community. He spent twenty years of his life working in the farm industry, and was appalled at the way the hogs were treated, and the horrible deaths all 15,000 pigs suffered. It was dark, but often times very funny. That being said, the humour pushes boundaries at time and could potentially be offensive to some.
Tanner, who also performed in the play is filming a sort of plea to an unseen character, and uses a power point presentation during the play. On at least one occasion, he stood very close to the wall it was being projected on, and his face was drowned out. I would have liked to have been able to see his face at that moment, as he was reacting in a fairly emotional way. The power point presentation was a good addition to the play, but the logistics needed to be worked out better so Tanner's face is not washed out at any point.
I liked this play, but it was overly long. A good twenty minutes could have been cut without losing anything. In fact, it would have added impact to the story, since by the end, I felt a bit tired of it, and was ready for it to end.
I really disliked Steven Ratzlaff's "Last Man in Puntarenas", however. It was about a man giving a speech at a dinner in his honour. He's celebrating quitting his job in the medical field, and is telling the story of how he got involved in the bureaucratic position he held. Throughout the play, the (unseen) members of his audience leave one by one, because they are alienated by this man's rant. Quite frankly, I felt the same way the invisible audience did. Maybe I just could not relate to him. But mostly, the story felt grating, and by the halfway point, I was checking my watch every five minutes (never a good sign).
I interpreted Ratzlaff's story as being one of refusing to let go. His marriage to his wife ended after the death of their son, who died at 16 months of age. It could have been a really touching story, but I think, again, because of the length of the monologue, it went on much too long, and it became boring. There were some attempts at humour within this play, and the odd time I did chuckle, but it seemed to fall flat most of the time.
Monologues can be a great way of performing theatre, but it has to be able to hold the attention of the audience. These two (mostly) one person plays did not have enough material to warrant the 50 minutes each were given, so eventually both become dull and tired. Both would have worked much better as half hour plays.