Victory at the Dirt Palace's Lear on the Air
Talk about a ratings war: The Riot Groups mordant 2002 satire Victory at the Dirt Palace, inspired by King Lear, concerns dueling father-daughter reporters James and Katherine Mann (Paul Schnabel and Stephanie Viola). Each is desperate to triumph in the Nielsens. When a terrorist attack briefly troubles the nation and the airwavesSome tall buildings arent as tall as they used to be, explains one charactertheir rivalry turns cutthroat.
Adriano Shaplin helped found the Riot Group in 1997 and pens all of their scripts. He writes dialogue at once swift and baroque, reveling in the possibilities of language but rejecting any phrasing that cant be spoken at a repeating-rifle pace. In this context, the sections of Shakespeare dont feel too intrusive; they merely intensify the father-daughter conflict. (However, in this version of Lear, Cordelias kind of a bitch, and Im pretty sure the Shakespeare concordance doesnt include Suck my dick.)
Throughout its 80-minute running time, Victory doesnt offer any fresh or sustained critique of the evening news. Rather, the plays pleasures lie in its language and in its ensemble, under the direction of Whit McLaughlin. As in Pugilist Specialist, which made its New York appearance in 2004, the Riot Group gives a vigorous impression of a corps intimately linked. Though the actors pass much of the play staring straight at the fourth wall, barking out their lines to the stage lights, they all seem to sense every gesture and expression of their fellows. This sensitivity contrasts nicely with Shaplins prickly dialogue. An announcement of another Riot Group show in New Yorknow that would make excellent news.
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