Finished review of Good by CP Taylor
C.P. Taylor’s Good, debuted last Wednesday at Randolph Macon College’s Cobb Theatre. Good was directed and produced by Randolph Macon’s own Joe Mattys. Joe is a professor of Theatre at the College. The title of the play ties into the central meaning of the play, which are the challenges that good people face in problematic times of distress and how good people can loose their sense of morality.
The production was not the typically tragedy, however C.P. himself, describes Good as “a play with music”. The setting took place in the early 1930s and stretches through about 1940 where it revolves around the horrors of the Holocaust. The main character, Halder, tells the story through his three voices, the voice inside his head, his outside voice, as well as through memories of the past. Halder is a brilliant man, who is a professor at a University; however he becomes mad with the sound of music constantly playing in his head. There are other elements in Halder’s life that drive him to a craze, his wife who cannot follow simple directions, cannot cook, clean or care of their children therefore she was not a productive member of society. Then there is his mother who is gravely ill and needed constant assistance to live, it is her wish to overdose on medications so that she is put out of her misery. The thought was, wouldn’t it be good to get rid of them, since they were no longer productive members of society.
It is his mother’s wishes that compel him to research the topic of euthanasia, which he later writes a book about. He believes that sick people should have the option to be euthanized if they do not stand a chance at living a good life. In a sense he believed that the ill should be put out of their misery. Soon after his book is published the Nazi’s learn of his theories, they began to form an alliance of sorts with Halder. The theory was in turn used to benefit the Nazi party during the Holocaust; they put Jews, and those who had economic power into bathrooms that had poisonous gas pouring out of showerheads. After these victims had marched off to Auschwitz, the Germans were in a position to rise to power economically and socially. Halder was directly affected by this; he gained his position chairing his department at the University because the previous chair was a Jew. As the audience we are not given a linear path of Halder’s thoughts which reflects the way every human mind works. C.P. Taylor takes the audience through Halder’s thoughts thought by thought, which leads us step by step in his journey of forgetting his original morality.
C.P. Taylor attempts to share the meaning of Good through the life of Halder, who is heavily influenced by the Nazi’s, who change him. Taylor tries to show that good people can get caught up in bad things when they justify others views. Though one may be able to justify, we may not personally agree with but somehow we can see the reasoning behind it. One can see why German people ended up justifying and Hitler’s views and following in his footsteps. Halder did not quite know what to think when he was standing at the gates of Auschwitz, looking at what all his theories had done to a country. He saw the man who ran the Concentration Camp, he showed no emotion. It did not affect one of Hitler’s men, who had to give up his duck dinner to go blow up a couple of Synagogues. He was not upset with the hundreds he would kill; he was upset that he would miss his dinner of duck. C.P. Taylor was trying to tell another side of the Holocaust, he wanted people to see how not all people who participated in it were bad people. Some of these people just got caught up in the views of Hitler and his promises to better their country and give them opportunities which they would have otherwise never seen. I believe that for some the meaning was easy to understand, but for others it was not. In order to fully understand the meaning of the play, it was essential to discuss it among a group of people or at least with someone who better understood Taylor’s reasoning’s for writing Good. It was certainly worth Taylor’s efforts to tell such a story, because I feel at though this element of the Holocaust is often overlooked because of the bitter and sensitivity of the era.
The structure of the play pertains to how Taylor tries to share the thoughts of Halder. He structures the play into the three voices we hear of Halder, just our brains work the plot jumps around his voices. Furthermore, Taylor ties in the theme of the play into its title. He focuses on the character of Halder, who was once a good man with solid and strong morals, but was later influences by the so called good ideas of Hitler. Taylor puts a strong emphasis on the word good in many different ways, but it is for the audience to notice it and analyze it in their own way.
I must confess that I did not enjoy the play as much as I have others. Though the storyline was admirable, it was not captivating like it could have been. I think that if there had been an appeal to the audience’s hearts it would have interested me a little more; however it was incredibly informative, though it was even more informative to discuss it afterwards. The plot was a bit difficult to follow and it was even more distracting for me because I could not clearly hear the actors.
It is my opinion that the production did not clearly reveal the meaning of the play. For many, it was not until after we discussed the performance in class, did they really understand the themes and meanings of the play. The only clear theme in the play was that good people can get caught up in bad choices that they carelessly justify. This theme was revealed generally in terms of these nice people carelessly justifying the beliefs of Hitler at the cost of innocent people. In my opinion there were not many elements that reflected or contributed to the meanings of play. Certainly the acting is what told the story, along with the background history that was offered to the audience. I suppose that some of the books, signified the research and book in which Halder included his euthanasia theory. The costumes of Hitler and his men showed that they were a part of the Nazi regimen, along with their red arm bands with black swastikas on them. The costumes and makeup of all the actors were very effective in establishing their age, profession, and social standing in Germany during the 1930s.
Furthermore, the movement and blocking of the actors was well thought out. Particularly, there was a good use of space in a constructive manner. The lighting on the other hand did not noticeably change until the end of the production when Halder was highlighted with the bright lighting. In the beginning of the production the lighting was much softer, warmer, and friendlier than at the conclusion to the play when it was a bright, harsh, and cool light. Though it was not noticeable, light fades were occurring about every three minutes throughout the production. For example, when Halder made a decision that took him to what the Nazis were saying the lighting became harsher. Overall the lighting supported the actions of the play. In addition to the lighting the sound played an important role in the production as well. The piano played when Halder was sharing his inner thoughts, here he would hear the music. His thoughts are scarce until the very end when the music stopped, which is when the band was real, the recorder came on and it was no longer the music played on the piano. This revealed that the piano music was in his head.
I have very mixed feelings about the performance of good. Though I am also an amateur theatre and especially critiquing it, I thought it was well directed. The biggest success of the production was the casting for Halder, Maurice, Helen, and Bok. I felt as though Freddie and Bouller could have been stronger actors, when the actor who played Anne could have toned things down a lot. I am not sure if it was the part of her character flaunt about the stage or not, but she surely accomplished it. I thought that Helen had a beautiful voice. The strengths of the play were definitely in the scenery because it was not distracting, it was simple, along with the casting, for they are what really made the play a success.
I was not really moved by this production, perhaps this is because I was lost a good amount of the time and was trying to figure out the meaning and themes. Since I was so sidetracked throughout the play I believe that is why I was not able to pay enough attention to be moved. However, the production did show me a different side to the Holocaust, one that I had never thought of before. It also gave me a new understanding of the ways in which the Holocaust victims were euthanized. I was especially surprised when Freddie and the piano player lit up in the first act of the play; it was incredibly distracting because of the smoke and appeared to be completely unnecessary. As a result of my frustrations I was unable to thoroughly enjoy the play and was just anticipating the end.