“I wrote “All’s Fair in Life and Death” at, well, I was very young, and, the play shows that, I think. There’s, well, it’s not exactly an undercurrent of youthful rebellion, more a, an overcurrent of, of outright revolution and so forth. Blood in the streets, big hammers, pounding on, I don’t know what. Jawbreaker breaking jaws.

“So, so really, it’s, it’s, it is what it is. I don’t want to say it isn’t. It’s just this, this little tragedy, not even a tragedy, a comedy, almost, except, no jokes, so, a neither, a neitheridy.”

(P. Immerstadt, in conversation, circa 1403)

(Featured Review)

What I, gentle reader, like about the senses is that they’re so easily stimulated. Pretty colors, melodious tones, soft fabrics, tasty meals: provided you have a bit of currency, they’re all easily obtained. To thrill and/or titillate the senses, one needs only expend a minimal amount of effort.

It startles me and turns me to wonder awestruck at the Celestial Firmanent, then, to see such a massive fiasco as Jo-Felar’s new production, “All’s Fair in Life and Death.” From journeyman playwright Paltaza Immerstadt (an ethnic human)’s tin ear for dialogue to lead actor Gi-Moriso’s wooden intonations to a limp and lifeless set design courtesy the Mindful Designer, the Garnet Theater’s current play is truly the gem in the crown; like the fishwife’s stepdaughter, it fails on every level.

In hopes of supplying some sense of anticipation and/or infect us with childlike wonder, the lobby and ante of the Garnet has been made over, all green branches and flower blossoms. While a bold choice, gentle reader, we few of us have even seen a tree, much less a forest, and forcing upon us a panoply of growth and fecundity threatens, rather than inspires; it’s an aggressive move, belligerent and wrong. Given the undoubted expense of importing all that greenery, I’m morally certain Jo-Felar is hemorrhaging money on this project.

The play itself matches the venue perfectly. Both are egotistical, masturbatory things driven by an unsubtle hammer. Gi-Moriso, sadly miscast as Jawbreaker, plays the legendary knight-errant as a barely-articulate heavy, a violent do-gooder driven by an unerring moral sense to impose his own brand of “eco-thinking” on those around him. Gi-Moriso, hardly credible as a man of reason, stumbles over lines that were written not to be performed, but to be carved in big letters across the cornerstones of bridges, or set in plaques adorning large, tacky marble statues.

Ul-Orena, who must constantly struggle against the potted plants in the lobby and the paint on the ceiling for the audience’s attention, woefully underperforms as Ista the Lifespeaker. Her limpid manner and na├»ve, graceless deliveries are inadvertent comic relief. Intended no doubt as a fey, otherworldly presence, a nature-goddess, Ul-Orena instead comes across as a witless child. If this is the strongest champion Nature-Magic can bring to bear against the Undying and the Dark wells of power, it’s no wonder that conflict settled out the way it did.

Allegedly set on the Verr, the action of the play pits Jawbreaker and Ista against a variety of shadowy evil figures, ranging from a corrupt industrialist to a child-murdering runethane to an entire cadre of Undying war profiteers. All are portrayed, in a singularly bad decision, entirely by offstage voices and defeated by Jawbreaker in eerie pantomime. One comes away from the performance thankful to have survived, and perhaps wondering whether the playwright has ever read about or visited the Verr: in the play it is presented as a green country, with wide sandy beaches and a rich interior jungle. Perhaps the action is meant to happen prior to the devastation, or perhaps the play is set in some parallel universe full of blossoms and candy and no natural disasters.

“All’s Fair in Life and Death” is, to put it clearly and mildly, not a very good play. Gentle reader, it is fit only for the morbidly curious and those who seek to atone for their sins. Stay home that night, order up a cask of wine, and sing or sleep or murder. Call on an old friend, overindulge in a tavern or bordello, sail to the Verr. Go anywhere, do anything, but do not visit the Garnet Theater, not until this shadow is lifted.

SEE ALSO: Immerstadt the Prolific, Nature-Magic, the Verr.


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