Poster Roaster: The People in the Picture

23 May

Oof, been a while since I’ve written one of these puppies! But despite the fact that opening season is over, this bountiful season continues to provide a bajillion shows for me to get to eventually. So let’s dig right on in, with Roundabout’s family/Holocaust/Donna Murphy show, ‘The People in the Picture’. Here’s the art:

First of all, let’s have a moment to appreciate that the original title of this show (which focuses on a Yiddish Theater Actress/Comedian who survives the Holocaust and the deaths of (spoiler!) pretty much all of her friends to grow into Bubbeh, a grandmother with a charming relationship with her granddaughter and a heinous relationship with her daughter) was ‘Laughing Matters’. Yes, that’s right, a musical in which most of the characters are slaughtered in the Holocaust was called ‘Laughing Matters’. And while this does actually have a thematic thread in the show (the idea that comedy is important in times of tragedy), can we just pause for a minute to imagine the poor tourist couple who would have walked up to TKTS, gone “Aww, honey, look! Mamma Mia’s sold out!! What do you wanna see instead?” “Oh, I don’t know, something funny and upbeat. How about this show Laughing Matters?” So, in the words of Robin Hood: Men in Tights, good change!*

But anyway, back to the poster at hand.

On the whole, I’m rather meh about it. It strikes me as something that was over-intellectualized; you can see all the themes there – the child in the photo from the past, the two faces ripped out from the photo as though to symbolize those missing, and the fact that the two faces are either a mother/child, in conflict, or Sofia Vergara’s weird new Pepsi ad –

-nnd all of these (well, the mother/daughter theme, and the conflict – not so much the Sofia Vergara, although frankly I would have loved to see her appear as some comic relief in the show) speak directly to the themes of the show. And yet, you sort of have to have seen the show to know that – the image itself is visually messy, and just looking at that with fresh eyes, I might have wondered if it was about children being eaten by fleshless face monsters, or someone trying to cash in on the ‘fun games from youth into major motion pictures!’ trend by turning that ‘two faces or a vase?’ visual puzzle into a live theatrical event.

Donna Murphy and Murphy Donna, or a vase.

And then you have the weird dichotomy of the contemporary, letterblocked font (with the weird slightly raised, ‘BROADWAY!’ detailing for the smaller words), against all that sepia, which, again, probably references the dual times of the show, but as a visual just seems oddly opposed, especially since that font seems less like a 1970s font (the ‘modern’ time setting of the show), and more like the font they use for the covers of contemporary books about precocious teenagers growing up in Brooklyn with peculiar speech patterns and a fondness for retro superheroes, written by men who live in Brooklyn have peculiar speech patterns and a fondness for retro superheroes.

So on the whole, I would give this poster a solid B-. It gets extra points for representing a show that, by all accounts, was undergoing significant changes throughout the creative process, and for representing a show that encompasses effed up mother/daughter relationships, dementia, comedy writing, a really terrible red wig on a man whom nature clearly never intended to be a redhead, Yiddish theater, and, oh, the Holocaust, and frankly I can’t think how you could ever do that either. Although I’m still pretty sure that Sofia Vergara would be a great addition.

*If you get this reference, I love you.

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