4/24/2013 10:20 PM
Young Jean Lee is known for her strange writing style because she forces herself to write the last thing in the world she would ever want to make. With this in mind, I can tell why "Pullman, WA" is something that Young Jean Lee was loath to create. The characters in the play spend most of their time directly berating the audience with vague taunts without the distractions of a real set or any lighting, sound, props, or costumes. This is a play that few people would go to willingly, and I think that Young Jean Lee understands that. Personally, I am wary of theater that tracks in simply trying to get a rise out of the audience without providing a solid and overarching framework or rubric. However, I can appreciate this play for its experimental nature. Young Jean Lee creates a sort of subverted and twisted therapy session for her audience, and it is a good exercise for her artistic muscles.
4/19/2013 7:27 PM
PULLMAN, WA by Young Jean Lee is a faux self-help seminar. It is a bizarre dream comedy about what to do when you feel sad.
Three characters compete for the audience’s attention. The speakers are variously highjacked by religious fervor, dehabilitating insecurity, and blissed-out fantasy. Most of the lines in the play are directed to the audience at large (“you are sitting in the middle of a giant puffball”) if not to specific audience members (“you are constantly saying mean things about people behind their backs”). There are moments of non-sense song (“hai hai malekka lek hai”) and descent into complete fiction (“you are in the belly of a whale…after dinner you travel down into the whale belly for anatomy class!”). Occasionally, there is piercing clarity (“Don’t drink. Go to bed early. You will probably feel better”).
The absence of a narrative through line gives the play a soupy feel. A thesis statement line appears near the end of the play – “I’m worried that everyone else is living their life on instinct and feeling totally fine, while I’m all alone in my fucked up state.” This helps (or helped me, at least) make sense of what we’ve seen. We’ve seen three desperate characters try as hard as they can to cheer themselves up – using drugs, Jesus, cruelty, yoga, anything – and fail. It’s very, very funny.