nytheatre.com review by Eric Winick
August 17, 2007
"People are such mysteries. We need windows, not mirrors," intones a character in Cody Daigle's Life/Play, An Experiment in Theatrical Autobiography. It's a line that neatly sums up Mr. Daigle's intention: to put his 2007 onstage, warts n' all, courtesy blog entries written over the last several months, strung together in seemingly random order. This is no reflection, we're told. This is life.
That Life/Play is even marginally successful is due, in large part, to the determination and likeability of its writer/star, who pours his heart and soul into the project, even when it seems to be one of diminishing returns. Chock full of homilies, bromides, less-than-amusing aphorisms, and bottled phrases such as the one that opens this review, Life/Play is full-on, unchecked sentimentality, nothing more or less than theatrical comfort food. Life may have its up and downs, the play seems to say, but in the end, as long as we get to produce a show in New York, that crazy city of dreams, everything's gonna be OK.
Consisting of two acts, one titled "Love," and the second "Everything Else," Life/Play strives to paint a picture of a life, one day at a time. Daigle is a gay man from Louisiana who harbors a dream of making it as an actor in New York City. He's been fortunate, unlucky, and indifferent in his pursuit of love. Somewhere along the way, he starts writing short plays and publishing them online, with the intention of arranging them into a longer work. These plays form the disjointed spine of Life/Play, which is less straightforward narrative than series of snapshots.
It's a risky gambit, and for the most part, it's a confusing jumble: Daigle attempting to ford the murky waters of his love life, an unhappily married straight couple, Franz Kafka, 15th century explorers, amorous carrots, a mincing "compliment fairy," gun-toting dragonflies, and a preponderance of references to Ovid. Interspersed are scenes that are undeniably real: the playwright looking back on his younger self and a female friend, seated beside one another, listening to Tracy Chapman and lamenting their unrequited love for the same boy; the playwright handing his latest BF a box containing "the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in miniature;" the playwright at age 30, looking over a map, musing on "the topography of a life."
There's no denying Daigle's appeal as a performer. He's got warmth and confidence and presence to spare. I only wish he and director Jarin Schexnider had taken the time to weed out the less successful bits and shape their experiment into something approximating an actual play. At the moment, the approach feels slapdash and hastily constructed, a low-rent [title of show] (particularly the scenes in which Mr. Daigle applies to take part in FringeNYC). With the exception of the playwright and Christy Leichty, the acting is high school-quality, with Christine Baniewicz's uninspired live keyboard music only reinforcing the DIY aesthetic.
There's a fine line between art and therapy. While Cody Daigle deserves credit for telling his story in a way that incorporates the ever-expanding blogosphere, Life/Play crosses that line one too many times. Let's hope that the next time we see Daigle in our fair city (and he does deserve to be seen), he chooses a more compelling vehicle in which to bare his soul.