Sheryl and I had a lovely evening at the theater (well, performance space) on Friday. George Saunders's "Pastoralia," the title story of his Pastoralia collection, was adapted for the stage by Yehuda Duenyas at Performance Space 122.

I'm a big Saunders fan–well, his poem in the fashion issue of the New Yorker a few weeks ago didn't really do it for me as satire, but of his stories at least. The central conceit (it might be a disservice to call it a conceit, but that's what it is) in Saunders's writing is the fractured syntax and word choice, employed to genuinely hilarious results. He uses it more or less throughout his stories, both in the dialog and in the interior monologues. Pastoralia is a story that makes heavy use of interior monologues to move the plot along, and in adapting it for the stage Duenyas decided to, for the most part, forgo any soliloquies in favor of conveying the same information through stage interaction and facial expressions–through, you know, acting. But it was somewhat disappointing to have some of this entertaining writing cut out in favor of physical interaction.

The other thing about most Saunders stories is that they're one catastrophe or desperate situation or depression following the other. Without all of the offbeat writing to cut into the emotion, the play ran the risk of veering into melodrama, but the adaptation was done skillfully enough to preserve the farcical atmosphere. At the same time, the touching parts were genuinely touching.

I've got Saunders's new book, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil on order, and hopefully it'll be arriving soon.


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