WTF?! How necessary is clarity in the theatre?

Mia Yoo remembers the first time she was baffled by a play: The man and the woman on the stage were completely silent and nearly immobile, an interaction so still yet so intense that her most vivid memory of the show was when an audience member farted; the rest of the audience laughed uproariously at that, but they did not do so right away; they waited until the show had ended. “Everybody understood not to laugh during the performance.”

 Yoo was seven years old at the time. The director was her father.

“I grew up in the theatre,” she says. “I had a lot of experiences of sitting and watching something that wasn’t coherent to me as a young person.”

Mia Yoo is now the artistic director of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, the downtown theatre founded by Yoo’s predecessor Ellen Stewart in 1961. She also recently performed at La MaMa in the first American production of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Pylade, one of several recent plays that I found difficult to follow. Two of the other plays, Fondly, Collette Richland and Lazarus, were both presented at New York Theatre Workshop. No one at NYTW was able to discuss these shows with me due to scheduling conflicts. By contrast, Yoo was generous with her time.

La MaMa and New York Theatre Workshop are across the street from one another in the East Village, an area full of theatres and companies that have been called avant-garde, experimental, and cutting-edge.

It is important to point out that complaints about a lack of clarity are not the sole domain of self-declared experimental work. The show in New York that got the most blatantly hostile reception last year was the Broadway production of David Mamet’s China Doll  starring Al Pacino—the negative reaction primarily because, as one critic wrote, it was “not easy to follow in terms of content, character or subtext,” or, as many theatregoers said, it was confusing.

Still, a discussion about clarity in the theatre is well timed for January, the month that abounds in theatre festivals in New York, coinciding with the annual convention of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Most of these festivals promise not just new and innovative shows but, in the words of PSS122’s COIL festival, work that “attacks the very concept of boundaries and of limits.”

Must theatre have clarity of purpose? Must it have meaning?

On January 5, Song, a piece by an Australian company called Ranters Theatre, was the first show in COIL this year, which is the earliest festival. We were ushered into the New Ohio Theatre, where the seats had been replaced by red felt mats, and we lay down for an hour, while the sun (or moon) before us turned from red to orange to silver to white and back again, and the sound track offered the sound of crickets, and waves, and the occasional folk song, and perhaps the distant yelps of a dingo. It was a lovely rest period, more pleasant and certainly longer than any I spent in kindergarten.
 

actors performing
Song. Photo by Jorge Lizalde.

The advantage for shows in these festivals, and in a place like La MaMa, is that the theatregoers drawn to them know what to expect—or more precisely, they expect not to know. “They are open to seeing something that is an experiment,” Yoo says, “as opposed to a polished ‘success.’”

actresses on stage
Kate Benson and Laurena Allan in Fondly, Collette Richland. Photo by Joan Marcus. 

On the other hand, Yoo notes, “we want everybody to feel like they can be here.”

This echoes something that playwright Sibyl Kempson told American Theatre Magazine at the time of her collaboration with the Elevator Repair Service (ERS) on Fondly, Collette Richland:

I do think my plays are for everyone. But if you’re coming to them with the need for a familiar structure, you might feel confused. If you come with the regular yardstick you use to measure plays, you’ll be disappointed. But with no yardstick there’s more openness. There’s a lot there to dig into. It’s a landscape.

For me, the key I eventually found to appreciating Fondly, Collette Richland was not to try to understand what was going on, but to let it wash over you—or to witness it the way one might a parade or a circus, just taking in the many funny moments, the vivid characters in colorful costumes, and the barrage of wild, loud, goofy, and frightening sounds. (For more details, read my review. Another comment that Kempson made—that her work is connected to her female awakening and female power—made me suddenly wonder, weeks after I wrote my review, whether she and ERS were executing a parody of traditional storytelling as a way of mocking and dismissing it as just another tool of the patriarchy.)

actor singing
Michael C. Hall in Lazarus. Photo by Jan Versweyveld.

I had much the same approach to Lazarus, which was David Bowie’s first foray into writing for the theatre, featuring eighteen of his songs (four of them new), and is a sequel of sorts to the 1976 film in which he starred, The Man Who Fell to Earth. I enjoyed the musical numbers, and director Ivo van Hove’s aggressively inventive staging. The best thing I could say about Bowie and Enda Walsh’s script is that it was close to impossible to offer spoilers; it was not easy to describe what was going on, much less give it away. In other words, I enjoyed the theatrical spectacle of these shows, but I gave up on trying to figure out what they meant. This apparently made them a less frustrating experience for me than for those who walked out at intermission.

The experience of watching Pylade was similar, with a twist. The play, which we were told (in the marketing and the program) used the character in Greek mythology of Pylades to tell a story and frame a debate about power and democracy, featured abundant nudity, and a couple of sex scenes. Even if I could have parsed the language to follow the arguments, why would I have wanted to refocus in order to do so? Pylade was forceful, seductive, arousing—and I wasn’t the only one who found it incomprehensible.

people dancing
Marko Mandic, center, and the Pylade company.

Yoo’s own intern—somebody “who had never seen a man’s body before”—said to her: “what was that? What were you trying to do?” Yoo recounted:

I talked about Pasolini as a political writer who was exploring what makes power; what makes a leader; what is democracy. He was also an artist who used the human body and sexuality as representations of power and vulnerability. He wanted the audience to feel the human flesh right in front of them.

Pylade director Ivica Buljan also made an interesting distinction about his production, one I hear with more frequency. “The director said to us ‘I’m not thinking of this as theatre—I’m thinking of this as performance art,’” Yoo recalls. “In theatre, you use red dye or ketchup for blood. If we were to use blood here, it would have to be real.’” Luckily, they didn’t use blood, but “we do have bruises. People were putting their bodies out there.”

I can’t say I was doing the same with my mind. But my reaction to Pylade and the other shows did eventually get me thinking: Must theatre have clarity of purpose? Must it have meaning?

“The ability to move an audience to a different sphere of consciousness is what great art is about,” the violinist Itzhak Perlman said during Kennedy Center Honor for conductor Seiji Ozawa. He didn’t specify an art, but his world revolves around music. Does anybody feel frustrated for not being able to “understand” a work of music? Hasn’t Impressionism and 1950’s abstract painting gotten way past what art critic Robert Hughes called “The Shock of the New,” these works of art enjoyed now without a strained struggle to figure them out.

There’s clarity of the body, there’s clarity of an image—something visual. There’s clarity of emotion. Clarity doesn’t just equal narrative storytelling.

“Why can’t theatre be abstract?” Yoo asks. What, after all, is the definition of clarity? “There’s clarity of the body, there’s clarity of an image—something visual. There’s clarity of emotion. Clarity doesn’t just equal narrative storytelling.”

Playwright Sarah Ruhl, addressing dramaturges in one of the essays in her book 100 Essays, writes:

We need you to fight the mania for clarity, and help create a mania for beauty instead. We need you to ask: Is the play too clear?....We need you to remind audiences that plays are irreducible in meaning, the way that poetry is.

Even some of the hippest TV shows (Twin Peaks, Lost) have asked their viewers to rid themselves of the need for narrative coherence.

All this makes sense to me (or should I say I respond to it beautifully?) And yet, I rarely leave the theatre completely satisfied whenever some wonder-filled stagecraft has not been paired with a clear sense of lives unfolding, of a discernible story. I don’t feel similarly deprived when leaving museums or concert halls.

I can’t help being suspicious of works for the stage that feel deliberately unfathomable; I question whether this is the result of an honest artistic vision, of genuine artistic inquiry, or just a self-aggrandizing pose. I was struck by the claim made several years ago that Claude Monet painted the water lilies the way he did because that’s the way he saw them—he had cataracts that blurred his vision. I sometimes flatter myself into thinking I can tell which so-called cutting-edge theatre artists actually see the world the way they’re presenting it on stage.

I’ve found that the enduring works of theatre, no matter how experimental, do address the need for story one way or another. Rick Cluchey, who died this week, was a prison inmate with a life sentence, when he heard a production of Waiting for Godot (heard through the loudspeakers because he wasn’t allowed to sit in the auditorium, the warden fearing he was an escape risk.) The play struck him as a spot-on re-creation of prison life. The play turned his life around. Cluchey led a prison theatre troupe, was paroled early, became a leading interpreter of Beckett’s work, and, eventually a collaborator and friend of the dramatist himself.

My appreciation of Beckett was slower and less consequential. As a kid, I saw the experimental ensemble Mabou Mines perform several of his short plays. The company, founded in 1970 by Lee Breuer and Ruth Maleczech, offered a production full of strangely timed blackouts, odd dreamlike recitations, and bouts of nudity. What was going on was just outside my comprehension, the way a word can be on the tip of your tongue, but, yes, I thought it was beautiful.

picture of a Epidog
Rose from Mabou Mines’ An Epidog.

Years later, I was assigned to review an original show written by Mabou Mines’ Lee Breuer, entitled An Epidog. It was a story about an old dog named Rose, who was voiced by Maleczech, but portrayed by a puppet in the style of Japanese Bunraku puppet theatre, manipulated by men in black. (Weirdly, when my review was published, the newspaper ran an accompanying photograph of the puppet, identifying it as “Ruth Maleczech”) Mabou Mines seemed to throw everything into this show, from pointed political commentary to metaphysical meditations to dumb jokes. At one point or another, Rose was joined by frogs and snakes, pigs and ducks, in a Last Supper (actually a Last Brunch); by a geisha samurai on a Suzuki; and in an ashram attended by free-range chickens and other spirited animals, presided over by a cow named Sri Moo. “My sisters, I speak to you as a dog," Rose said on her hind legs. "And the animal in me tells the woman in me, I was not enslaved. I was domesticated."

The play was funny, it was pointed, and, then, it was sad: At the end, Rose died.

I walked home from the theatre, delighted with An Epidog—and was greeted by several urgent messages on my answering machine. They were from my editors: Why had I left An Epidog at intermission?

“What? The dog died!”

“In the second act,” they explained, “she’s in Heaven.”

Thanks to my faux pas, they had somebody announce at the end of Act I from then on that there would be a short intermission—just to be clear. Maybe their dedication to clarity has nothing to do with it, but Mabou Mines (despite the loss of one of its leaders, Ruth Maleczech, who died in 2013), is still going strong, with a new production running this month at La MaMa. 

***
Jonathan Mandell’s NewCrit piece usually appears the first Thursday of every month. Find his previous pieces here.

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I have reflected on this issue for many years. I think its not the performance it's self that needs to have 'clarity", its the people who are marketing the work, the venues and artists who have a responsibility to communicate what audiences might expect.

The article points out the key issue for me here: "Pylade director Ivica Buljan also made an interesting distinction about his production, one I hear with more frequency. “The director said to us ‘I’m not thinking of this as theatre—I’m thinking of this as performance art,’”. I have been saying for years theatre needs to start distinguishing between "Live Performance Art" and "Narrative Driven Theatre", using words such as "experimental" or "Avant Guard" are not explicit enough for many general public theatre goers.

I remember a couple of years ago going to see THE RABBLE's production of Cane and Able at Belvoir St Theatre and being both enraptured and bitterly disappointed at the same time. Not being familiar with The Rabbles works, I had come to see a brave, feminist retelling of a Biblical story. What I was presented with was a beautifully crafted, live performance art pieced that abstractly explored ritual and the performativity of the "feminine" positing modern culture and socialisation of "acceptable female behaviour" as "God:".

Audience members were leaving mid performance and afterwards I heard many angry punters also expressing their disappointment and anger. It was not what they had expected, there was no recognisable “story” and they declaimed they “would never see The Rabble and/or Belvoir show again”. For me, as a piece of "Live Art" is was incredibly powerful & successful. As a story telling vehicle is failed miserably and there was a sense of deep betrayal by those of us who had been lead to believe we would have some kind of recognisable Cane and Able story to guide us through an “experimental” retelling.

I strong believe that these audience experiences could have been completely different if the marketing had prepared them for it. True, some may not have come if see a “Live Art Performance” with no narrative, but others may have arrived open to an abstract experience. Just like we are when we walk into an art gallery, these works require us to directly engage intellectually or emotionally with the work, we must work harder to make our own meaning and experience. I believe we have a responsibility to help our audiences access our work. I know its important to push, and shock and rip the blinkers off the general publics eyes, its what artists do so well, but I don’t think there is value in alienating audiences in the process and perhaps making them turn their backs on “Avant Guard work” forever.

I so enjoyed reading this article, fun and thoughtful. These are my favorite comments from the comments below that reflect something similar in my own perspective on the topic.

"In fact, when an audience is required to see something as both real and unreal simultaneously there arises a creative and imaginative tension that enables us to transcend the mundanity of real life, and which can create a kind of playfulness." Note: I would even venture to add, can by a masterful combination of writing, directing and acting, include but also elevate the theatrical experience beyond entertainment to a 'cathartic shift of consciousness' that supports new or enhanced meaning in the recipients relationship to life.

"If you've seen one nude body covered with peanut butter screaming at you about systemic oppression, you've seen them all. Confusing theater is just two doors down from boring, and there is no greater sin in the theater than boring."

"A word to playwrights: if you're not interested in being understood, talk to yourself at home. If your intent is to baffle your audience, you will have succeeded in 10 mins and the remaining 90 mins of the program is just unjustified torture. Your audience doesn't need to be spoon-fed and wants to be challenged but not in a way that leaves them isolated from you, your work, and their fellow man."

"the biggest obstacle toward coherence is the initial belief that the plays are not coherent."

"We make the art; YOU make the sense." Note: For me, this is edgy because depending on skill as well as intention it could be 'passing the buck' of responsibility totally to the audience.

"There's a difference between bold storytelling and artistic masturbation." Note: I concur with this, although the later can sometimes be entertaining.'

Regarding Sarah Ruhl's comment: "We need you to fight the mania for clarity, and help create a mania for beauty instead. We need you to ask: Is the play too clear?....We need you to remind audiences that plays are irreducible in meaning, the way that poetry is." I would like her to provide 'more' on what she means by 'too clear.' It does not seem that she is advocating no clarity. While plays can be 'irreducible' (complex, complicated, intricate, difficult) that does NOT mean they lack clarity, or sufficient clarity, in the exploration of that complexity.

With the hope of teaching my students, and our audiences, at California State University, Northridge, that experimental, avant garde, or "weird" theatre is actually just THEATRE, I am mentoring 13 directing students in directing 20 short plays with 12 actors in one evening. Playwrights include Mickey Birnbaum, Sheila Callaghan, Erik Ehn, Diane Exavier, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Ruth Margraff, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Jacqueline Wright. So I am delighted by the questions posed in this article, particularly because our event is called WTF--aka the Weird Theatre Festival. The process has been overwhelming but I can tell you the big revelation is that the biggest obstacle toward coherence is the initial belief that the plays are not coherent. Of course the plays are relatively obtuse, but I tell the directors and actors involved to give the plays more credit. I am hoping the title of the event dispels the fear of not "getting it" and opens the audience to an unexpected comprehension. That said, I have also seen some of the work mentioned in this article and conclude that the customer is always right. There are "good" and "bad" productions in both traditional and experimental theatre worlds, and the audience gets to decide which is which. However, I do think theatre gets unfairly held to the criteria of clarity over other art forms. No one rejects a good song because of its cryptic lyrics. No one expects painters to be literal. I've been baffled by some episodes of Madmen. But heaven forbid that theatre not make sense. As our postcard says, We make the art; YOU make the sense. For those in the neighborhood, come see how we do: http://www.csun.edu/mike-cu...

Larry I think you have hit the nail on the head with you postcard and festival title. they know to expect some thing "weird" and they they won't necessarily be handed the "meaning" of the work easily. As a theatre director i love messing with absurd work, poetic meaning and imagery and non-linear narratives. As i said in my long rant above, I think it's about preparing your audience for that type of experience!

I have a high tolerance for experimental theater, and yet I left Fondly, Collette Richland and Lazarus thinking they were just bad shows by excellent artists, or in any case failed experiments. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and openness in considering your response to these shows, Jonathan, and you make me wish I'd seen Pylade. :-)

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in a 1964 decision that while he could not precisely define what made something obscene (or pornography), "I know it when I see it." I would say the same thing when it comes to evaluating whether a seemingly obscure piece of theatre is self-indulgent, pretentious nonsense or a sublime work of true art: "I know it when I see it." But I can't tell you how. All I know is that a theatre production either engages and moves me emotionally, despite any lack of intellectual clarity, or it does not. Something deep and primal and wordless rumbles under the surface of Beckett's more obscure plays, and I have felt similar rumblings under many other avante garde theatre pieces I have seen. Elevator Repair Services' Fondly, Denise Richland is the one piece that left me feeling conflicted. I left at intermission, but I did not hate or even dislike it. There was a lot to enjoy in the first act. I did let the play "wash over me," and there was a tremendous amount of talent represented on that stage. But I felt in my bones and heart at intermission that -- like a parade -- the second half would add nothing to the enjoyment I had already gotten out of watching the first. The play wasn't going anywhere. It was tasty, but empty calories;I'd be hungry again an hour later. Maybe I was wrong, but that's not the impression I've gotten from people who did stay for the whole thing.

Too much of what is termed "experimental" and "cutting edge" is merely an excuse for self indulgence. Concept theater makes theater as a whole more healthy, but only by contrast. Fully abstract theater both requires and tries a great deal of patience on both the parts of the audience and the funders. Most popular non-linear stories have strong characters or overarching themes that permit an audience to make sense of the senseless (q.v. The Prisoner and Twin Peaks). But so-called "experimental" theater has gotten fat and lazy in middle age. If you've seen one nude body covered with peanut butter screaming at you about systemic oppression, you've seen them all. Confusing theater is just two doors down from boring, and there is no greater sin in the theater than boring.

Just read this. Love this piece. I have many of the same thoughts. Here's where I see the difference with art and music. A piece of art is glanced at, maybe stared at, maybe for 10 minutes. A play is upwards of an hour. A piece of art is about a moment. Music is mood setting, without people or sets. Great music (such as Beethoven's 9th) take your mood on a journey. If music doesn't take you on a journey, it's hard to listen to (for me, anyway). These arts are not supposed to have beginnings, middle's and ends. Plays are staged to depict a story. (Which doesn't mean that it has to be told as a novel, it can be told using alternate chronology, technology, poetry and other means. But I believe it must depict a story.) Otherwise, I believe it's just "performance art", which I think can be fantastic, but they are not plays, and should not be promoted as such. My thoughts.

At the risk of being simplistic, I label clear storytelling as "theatre," and label disjointed, bizarre, and/or incomprehensible stuff as "performance art." If certain audiences enjoy the latter, fine -- but I'll stick with traditional storytelling styles that were considered terrific for millennia until a few decades ago.

There is a whole other article to be written (and maybe I'll write it) on performance art vs. theatre.

Here are two perspectives. The first is from long-time performance artist Marina Abramovic:

"To be a performance artist, you have to hate theatre. Theatre is fake: there is a black box, you pay for a ticket, and you sit in the dark and see somebody playing somebody else's life. The knife is not real, the blood is not real, and the emotions are not real. Performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real. It's a very different concept. It's about true reality."

A response from UK theatre director Chris Wilkinson:

"The conventional trappings of the theatre – a proscenium arch, and audience [sitting and] watching in the dark – are by no means antithetical to the creation of work which is truly radical. You could even argue that it is these precise conventions – which strike Abramović as so artificial – that give theatre its power....Audiences are not stupid, and are perfectly capable of understanding the nature of theatrical illusion. In fact, when an audience is required to see something as both real and unreal simultaneously there arises a creative and imaginative tension that enables us to transcend the mundanity of real life, and which can create a kind of playfulness."

In truth, there is little clear distinction anymore (if there ever was) between performance art and theatre. The one blurs (or should I say bleeds?) into the other.

Great article but...

"I had much the same approach to Lazarus, which was David Bowie’s first foray into theatre..." This is incorrect and should be revised.

To clarify here: Taken from (alas) his obituary: "As the 1980s began, Mr. Bowie turned to live theater, performing in multiple cities (including a Broadway run) in the demanding title role of “The Elephant Man.” What I meant in the article is his first foray into *writing* for the theater, so we've changed the wording.

I think that theatre can be experimental, that narrative can be obscured, that clarity can be be sacrificed. Still, as a form of artistic communication through symbols -- be they words or images or sounds -- It must communicate something. That is, the message must be sent AND received or it is a failure. I have enjoyed pieces without knowing their exact meaning when I felt connection in my heart -- joy, terror, grief, awe-- connection to the writer or to the others around me in the seats. I have also hated productions where I felt alone in my seat wondering if the author and director were simply selfish or actually had contempt for the audience. A word to playwrights: if you're not interested in being understood, talk to yourself at home. If your intent is to baffle your audience, you will have succeeded in 10 mins and the remaining 90 mins of the program is just unjustified torture. Your audience doesn't need to be spoon-fed and wants to be challenged but not in a way that leaves them isolated from you, your work, and their fellow man.

Yes, as I tried to say in the article, I too make a distinction based on what I intuit to be the author's motives/creative process. I talk about whether the work is the result of an honest vision, or of a self-aggrandizing pose. You talk about whether the artist is trying to make a connection with their audience or is just being selfish. There's another dichotomy I could have mentioned -- whether the artist is trying to communicate just to a coterie of those-in-the-know or to tap into the basic humanity that everybody shares (our "joy, terror, grief, awe," as you say.)

I would love to see more mystifying theater. I saw "Antigone" at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. Currently featured on the cover of American Theatre magazine. The performance was like a modern dance interpretation of "Antigone" but I found it quite mystifying, even though an on stage narrator provided most of the story. The leader of the Greek Chorus stood stock still under a hanging knife, chanting furiously like a shaman. Some of the dialogue was spoken in Greek which made it sound very exotic. And the bizarre physicality of the performance was quite surreal. The overall impression was of an eerie netherworld where the tragedy was being mourned for all of eternity in a ritualistic manner. It was more profound than any other performance I've seen in the theater because it allowed my imagination to search for deeper meaning.

Ah, but what about the people who DON'T know Antigone's story when they enter the theatre? This production sounds like pretentious performance art. I'd be pissed to buy a ticket to Antigone and then have it be a storyteller TELLING the story while others do unintelligible things. There's a difference between bold storytelling and artistic masturbation. Clarity has been a primary goal in theatre for millennia -- it's annoying that we now have people trashing that in order to appear cutting edge or innovative. Imagine a theatre virgin seeing something like this -- they'd likely never set foot inside a theatre again. Creators need to serve the audience and the art form, not serve their own egos.

i don't think that writing or creating a piece from personal experience and/or motivation means artists are serving their own egos. they're inspired by something and need to express it and then create it. i'd rather see a story or work of art that is a unique expression of that artist's personal experience than something that the artist made to specifically "serve" or "please" his or her audience. deliberately trying to please an audience can compromise an artist's vision - not always, but sometimes! - and i'd rather get to know a work of art that has not been compromised in that way than feel safe or comfortable because it is something that the artist thinks i will be familiar with and therefore find pleasing. i agree that if a storyteller is obtuse for the sole purpose of appearing experimental or provocative without actually being experimental or provocative, it is maddeningly self-indulgent and therefore inauthentic. and i also agree that artists should definitely consider their audience when creating a piece (maybe in rewrites or in previews, but not initially) - but absolutely not cater to them in order to please them.

i connect and relate to more visceral, emotional art and theatre, so i never really need clarity from my theatrical experiences. like mentioned in the article, i just need to connect in some sort of way. such a brilliant point that clarity doesn't just mean a chronological or familiar narrative. emotional clarity can actually be awesomely mystifying. that is actually a very articulate and clarifying point for me about why i don't need clarity! ha! but this demand for clarity, like sarah ruhl said, this "mania for clarity" is upsetting. the most effective and moving pieces of theatre i have seen are when the theatre artists tell the story their own individual way - if clarity isn't a part of that - fine. if so, great! but i don't think clarity is some sort of law that needs to be followed.

i was watching an interview by the late Alan Rickman today, and he said any art worth doing should have some element of risk to it. I completely agree. Risk incites stakes, which for me, give rise to a greater depth of meaning and purpose in art. Risk means the story is dangerous, which can provoke and move audiences more potently than a story that makes them feel comfortable. Playing it safe is fine for some and has its place - I mean I enjoy it sometimes too! - but as a whole, theatre and art that really change the course of how we perceive each other and the world around us isn't a story that placates me, it's a story that wonderfully disturbs and frightens and provokes me. for any of that disturbance to happen, clarity isn't necessarily a requirement.

The playwright Mac Wellman wrote this rad treatise on the Well-Made Play in the early 90's I think, saying that theatre was too clean and clear and that - like some points in the article above - life isn't like that most of the time. life is messy and confusing, but we can still connect to each other amidst the mess and confusion. which is why i think a lack of clarity can actually be more liberating and satisfying than seeing a play or theatre event that tries to answer the unanswerable aspects of life.

Thanks for your comment. You make some interesting points. Just to clarify something: Being clear to an audience is not necessarily the same as "pleasing" an audience. Clarity in art does not have to be any more of a "compromise" than any form of communication between two or more people. If I say something to somebody, and the other person says "What did you say?" am I compromising myself by repeating it so they get it?