On paper, The Great Awkward Hope, a play about making a play about making a play, is a quirky little exploration into the art of making art and what it can say across racial divides. In practice, unfortunately, the play has very little substantial to say and what it does say it stumbles over. The play is sloppy, poorly paced, and far less funny than it thinks, which is always a terror for an audience member. There’s nothing worse than being forced to respond to an unwarranted wink and nod.
What follows is a series of self-referential scenes about the challenges and pitfalls of developing the script, which apparently were not avoided . I’m a sucker for meta-narratives and plays within plays, but Hamlet or Adaptation this is not. Instead of using the premise to discuss what it means to make art and how it can communicate with people, the play’s set up does little more than act as a lampshade for all of its faults. Unfortunately, though, those faults are far too bright to hide away. Calling attention to how bad a scene is doesn’t make it good, which is something that The Great Awkward Hope never seems to realize.
The Great Awkward Hope
Written and directed by Jeff Reiser
Details and tickets
Now, don’t get me wrong, The Great Awkward Hope makes some sympathetic points about race relations and history in America, but it does so from such a place of privilege that it is impossible to care, even if attention is called to that privilege. I got whiplash trying to keep up with whether the play thought it was about race or not, but, regardless, its forays into it are from such a specific point of view and one that, frankly, isn’t worth hearing. Maybe it would have felt more forgiven a few years ago, but in this climate I really can’t garner any interest in a story about one white man’s relationship to race. “Maybe this won’t add anything to the discussion on race,” Jeff posits during his wiring process. “But I’ll try my best!” Well, try he does, but unfortunately he was absolutely right.