A very novel play: a review of “Smokefall” at the Goodman Theatre

In short, let me say that “Smokefall”, showing right now at the Goodman Theatre, is a wonderful wonderful play. You should see it if you’re able.

I’m currently reading the “Aspects of the Novel” by E.M. Forster. It’s an interesting book. From what I gather, it’s based on a series of lectures given at Oxford sometime in the middle of the last century. Professor Forster argues pretty persuasively that the novel is unique among the arts in its ability to express our inner lives directly to the audience. Other arts, he says, rely on sensory evidence, just like we do in life. If someone is sad, they must look sad, or say that they are sad. But, in a novel the narrator can directly tell us that the person is sad. And so we peek into their secret inner life.

I was fairly convinced by this book I’m reading. But, by happy accident I saw “Smokefall” last week. The play uses a narrator, you see. So, it operates in much the same way that most novels do, giving us direct insight into what the various members of one extended family are thinking and feeling. It uses this tool very effectively. I felt coming out of it, as though I had been on a journey at once spiritual and intellectual. Indeed, I had been wrestling with all sorts of questions about forgiveness and sin, and without giving too much away, I’ll at least say that this play provided me with some very powerful answers to these Important Life Questions. Plus, it’s hilarious. Seriously, go see it if you can, whether for the entertainment, spiritual, or technical artistic value.

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