Being a twenty-something is a strange time. It’s the part of your life where you begin to realize that the world isn’t exactly how you imagined. Your preconceived notions of how to deal with failure or success are no longer black and white. Maybe that ex-girlfriend isn’t the end-all, be-all you made her out to be. Maybe you won’t land that dream job right out of college. Maybe, in fact, you won’t make a lot of money. Many millennials were raised to believe that they could do anything in the whole wide world and nothing bad would ever happen. Well, that’s not the way life works, and Claire Went to France, a new existential comedy by Ben Clawson and directed by Artem Yatsunov, hopes to figure out why. Unfortunately, due to a cluttered script and messy performances, the play instead comes across as annoying, like a little kid won’t stop whining.
Jonathan (Tony K. Knotts) arrives home after an average day at his boring office job. In his apartment he finds real-life versions of his memories: his dead dad (Gary Martins), his dead dog (Scott Cagney), and his live ex-girlfriend (Shannon Sullivan)—or, well, a recollection of her that he’s locked in the closet since she’s moved to France. He argues with all three about life’s big questions: What do I do with my life? Why does no one like me? What does it all mean, man? This could be entertaining if there was any fresh substance to the questions, any substantial answers, or if the play was about an hour shorter. Granted, seeing the discussions we often have in our heads played out on stage is a fun concept, but how many times can a character ask the same existential questions before it becomes repetitive, and at worst, obnoxious?
Rather than use any kind of real narrative to explore Jonathan’s challenges, Claire paints him as a bland, empty dude and simply meditates on these huge, vast questions of life over and over again. Sure, after awhile, Jonathan heads out to a bar and tries to meet someone, to create new memories and experience life rather than question it. But without any exact, clear character traits for Jonathan, outside of surface level choices like his shirt color or beverage preference, Claire isn’t as much a play as it is that “Intro to Philosophy” class you took freshman year.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 30, 2012