Monday, February 22, 2010

Resolution, Cont'd

Of course, I don't mean to say that resolution should be abandoned entirely. And Zev is correct in a sense, that what I really seem to be arguing against is bad resolution, but it actually is a bit deeper than that. What I mean to offer is that the necessity to resolve is unnecessary, and I don't believe this is a particularly inflammatory suggestion. Zev's claim "entertainment seems to almost require a destination" is importantly not an intrinsic quality. It's based on historical data, perhaps, and perhaps on expectations, but that's different from aesthetic requirement. Isn't a rock concert entertaining? What's the resolution there? What's the narrative arc? And transporting only really obliquely demands a destination, i.e. not here. Meeting people who don't exist, caring about them, encountering their problems: this is transportive.

Anyway, it's not really that I want to abolish or sneer at resolving in general. The crux of my argument was this part:

...a lot of plays take a long time to get to what the "plot" is going to be. We spend much of the first act meeting the characters only to be presented with the "problem" of the play just before the intermission. The audience activity of the first act is replaced with the passivity of events unfurling in the second act, and this seems a shame.
Well, doesn't it? When a play shifts to get "down to business" all we've learned of it so far changes from sum to background. The work we've done - audience participation in the real sense - becomes a down payment to the furtherance of a narrative we didn't demand. It's not that I don't like narrative, it's that I don't like this shift. I don't like being told to turn off. I don't need to watch a writer pat his own back for tying up all his loose ends. I just don't care. If you want to tell a story, tell a story. If you want to create a world and present problems, do that. If you want to do them both, do them both at once. But if you believe that you HAVE to resolve a story or you haven't made a play, you are wrong. Free yourself.

Abigail's Party, for instance (which you have to do yourself a favour and see), never has this shift, but it does have a narrative. The narrative consists of the accumulation of details throughout the play. There is no abrupt shift from exposition to narration, the play proceeds organically throughout. It also, brilliantly, doesn't have a resolution, it has a conclusion. A person could demand that the play have a third act, but it doesn't need it. The story has been told. The ingredients and the crisis have been presented, what happens next is not in the play.

Calls to Blood, on the other hand, did have an abrupt shift to narrative, but the point of the narrative was to make this tonal shift, and this shift did not serve to disengage but to reengage: what seemed to be a play about x is now a play about y. For this play a person did demand more scenes, but it doesn't really need it. The play doesn't tell the story of what happened next - that's not the play. Are there loose ends? ...Yep.

I know this all has a proscriptive tone, but what I'm arguing for here is more freedom rather than less. Forego the forced march. Enjoy the story you tell, don't feel obliged to resolve your plot for resolutions sake, or, especially, for my sake.

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