I just read the review you published on Piece-Meal, which is currently showing at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham. It was an interesting review, and I appreciate the fact that Mr. McDowell was careful to give credit to all that were involved in the production, but I suspect that he may have stepped out for a few minutes and missed some critical parts of the play that might have completed the picture for him. I found his comment of “There’s something happening here, and I don’t know what it is” very amusing.
I also saw the play this past weekend, and felt that its underlying meaning was fairly clear. In the play, seven people come together for a potluck, and we learn that they are there more because they have exchanged pieces in the past and therefore feel a responsibility to say yes to the invitation from the hosts. When things come to a head because of the fact that one of the group simply can’t keep track of her pieces, the option of existing without pieces surfaces. This option is embraced by her husband, who in turn discards everyone’s pieces (including his own) while the others are outside “catching a bit of air.” He obviously finds peace immediately in doing this, and is able to tell his guests to go home, as he and his wife really didn’t want them there in the first place (again, they were invited simply because they had exchanged pieces sometime in the past).
As the other guests deal with the loss of pieces, we learn who among them can accept living and existing in a world without potentially meaningless pieces and which had gotten to actually know and/or love the people with whom they had exchanged pieces. In some cases, we find that the piece exchange really meant little and didn’t signify a close attachment between the people In fact, the piece exchange is just a logistic for one group member and a manipulation tool for another.
There was certainly some other stuff going on that lent to the originality of the play and that may have contributed only to the artistic or entertainment value, but I don’t think that this fluff left the viewer hanging, feeling that something had been unfinished or unexplained.
I agree that there wasn’t an overly large amount of character development, but it wasn’t necessary to get the point of the play across. The play lasts for a refreshingly short 70 minutes, and I’m disappointed that Mr. McDowell was apparently unable to last through that short of a duration, either physically or mentally.
Daryn O’Shea
Durham, NC
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Theatre Editor’s Note: I did stay for the whole show, which is performed without intermission. But staying to the end didn’t help me understand Piece~Meal any better. — R.W.M.