POP: Brian on Nerve
What is POP (aka) Playwrights-On-Playwrights?
Who else is POPing Adam Szymkowicz?
Batting second: Brian Pracht on Adam Szymkowicz's Nerve
Brian's plays include The Misogynist, Or No More Mr. Nice Guy and Unplugged In; he also played Joe in the Flux production of Adam's Pretty Theft.
Nerve has been produced in NYC, St Louis, Miami, Asheville, Philadelphia, and beyond. For more information about Nerve, check out Adam's website. Nerve is published by Dramatists Play Service, and is available here and here.
by Brian Pracht
Based on my knowledge of Adam’s work, Nerve is the perfect play to start with. I wonder it he’d hate to think of this play as a touchstone, maybe it’s a Source, since many of the core themes and styles he employs are found here in its purest form, or at least its simplest form, since this play consists simply of two people in one location. It’s interesting to me that the music’s supposed to be considered as a fourth character. Since I don’t remember in the text either Susan or Elliot actually dealing with or reacting to the music, my reaction was to consider the music more of a director’s tool, used to underscore the emotions these characters feel. And these characters feel a lot. Deeply. Which I think is a great strength of the play, and in Adam’s work in general (I don’t think I’m supposed to speak to Adam’s work in general, so I’ll hereafter stop).
Looking for love, knowing you’re flawed.
In Nerve, I believe Susan and Elliot start the play having already found love in each other (or at least the germ of love), but since they barely know each other, they’re afraid that once the other knows their secrets, they’ll be scared off. Even though Elliot says he loves who he is, when he pulls out his puppet, we see this isn’t the case. So, okay: we have two people who don’t like themselves, but they desperately want to be loved, but they’re afraid this won’t happen because of their shitty baggage, but they think they’ve found someone special, so now they have to show them their baggage, but first they have to work up the nerve to do so. Two people fighting for their relationship while fighting against themselves. That’s basically how this play works for me. And it works very well. The play engages us with one of the most elemental, human problems. The rest: the “quirks”, the puppets, the dancing—they’re interesting and fun and unique. I don’t want to dismiss them. They’re imaginative, they help us to listen more carefully, since we’re used to the guy-and-girl-on-a-date play. Visually and aurally, the dancing and napkin-pile and sound effects help us interact with these people on different, sensory levels. But for me, what makes this play successfully work and MOVE is the core problem: people overcoming their flaws to achieve what they want. I personally believe this is a problem we emotionally invest in because we want to see it solved, which thankfully, they do.
It gives us hope in ourselves, and hope that love still conquers all.
Now isn’t that a beautiful evening of theater?