Theater Diary

On recent theater

Annie Baker. John. Signature Theatre, directed by Sam Gold, 2015.
Max Posner. Judy. New Ohio Theatre, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, 2015
Woodshed Collective. Empire Travel Agency. Directed by Teddy Bergman, 2015.

September 5: John

Annie Baker, the young playwright whose show John just closed at the Pershing Square Signature Theatre, is known for her silences. At the beginning of the script for The Aliens, the play that won Baker an Obie Award for Best New American Play in 2010, she offers a note of direction on the subject:

About the Pauses and the Silences: At least a third — if not half — of this play is silence. Pauses should be at least three seconds long. Silences should last from five to ten seconds. Long pauses and long silences should, of course, be even longer. An intermission is necessary for about ten different reasons. Each act should run around fifty to fifty-five minutes.

>No such note is necessary for John. The director, Sam Gold, has been Baker’s steady collaborator since 2008, and he understands how her silences should sound. After a little exposure, so does the audience. I saw John on a Saturday night on the recommendation of a friend, and for the first five minutes I waited as the people around me learned how to deal with themselves. Their primary instinct was to fill the silences with noises of appreciation — laugh-track laughter and short, breathy snorts; my primary instinct was to be mad at them. But the pauses kept coming, and grew too wide to bridge. This seemed to cause a tiny panic, at first: whispers of What?, audible throat clearing and weight shifting. After a few minutes, we passed through awkwardness and annoyance to the other side, settling into something quiet and sustained, a little bit like church.

More from Issue 24

Issue 24 New Age
Stars—They're Just Like Us!
Issue 24 New Age

All the problems of the world dissolve in a warm open-source bath! Capitalism loses on the playing fields of Valve Software.

Issue 24 New Age
Race and the American Creed
Issue 24 New Age

Any debt to the living takes precedence over any debt to the dead.

Issue 24 New Age

If the objection was that porn was tasteless, profane, distorting, or exploitative, then porn was just really honest TV.

Issue 24 New Age
Issue 24 New Age
Issue 24 New Age
Issue 24 New Age

The roadside advertisements all pulsate with the same messages: corruption, desperation, money laundering, patriotism.

Issue 24 New Age

Are there alternative paths Ukraine could follow?

Issue 24 New Age

Had all those bombs meant nothing?

Issue 24 New Age

The question needs to become, which truth are they telling, and for whom?

Issue 24 New Age

There was food in the stores, and currency in the ATMs, and the men with guns were, on the whole, much less likely to detain you.

Issue 24 New Age

It’s never entirely clear whether the crime is Meursault’s murder or Camus’s book.

Issue 24 New Age

Maybe it’s best to be good at many things but great only at convincing people you’re great at everything.

Issue 24 New Age

“Really? It seems glib, that’s all.” —Eileen Myles

More by this Author

July 23, 2016
A Wedding From Hell
July 7, 2011

Cafe. See Coffee Capital, 150–151, 161, 166. See also Cultural capital; Income Capitalism, 40, 47–48, 62, 79, 81, 166

Issue 43 Unreal
Your Body, My Choice
March 3, 2017
While the Iron Is Hot
May 26, 2018
A Pile of Kleenex
Issue 36 Get Help