The Twist

I just threw (figuratively anyway) a script across the room. I’d been reading a newly published play, and was happily pulled in to the story, until in the final pages, a twist was revealed that changed everything that had gone before. I wanted to scream at the author, “Why? Why did you destroy the lovely story you had written?”

I’m not a person who believes that twists never work, I enjoyed The Sixth Sense, for example, though I had a premonition (ha!) of what what to come in that one. The difference is, the twist in that film expands the world that has been created, and you go “Yes, of course.” The twist in the script I just read did the opposite — it kicked the ladder out from under everything that had gone before.

At least, that was my experience, which well may be a minority one. The script is barely a year old, but has already had a number of productions and has won several awards. One reviewer suggested that cynics might hate the twist, but I don’t think I’m being a cynic. Just the opposite. In the pages before the big reveal, the characters are earning their place in our hearts. For me, the ending comes across as false.

If I didn’t know the playwright personally, I might think that they were being cynical — cranking up the juice in order to manipulate the audience the way Steven Spielberg too often does. Or Disney. In Frozen, and countless other Disney films, the protagonist has to appear to have died, and then be revived in a near miraculous way. Why isn’t it sufficient for Anna (or E.T.)  “merely” to be in mortal danger? I experience those “return from death” scenes to be extremely cynical and manipulative.

As I said, however, I know this writer and I don’t think that was their plan. I suspect it comes from not trusting a smaller scale story, one that doesn’t go beyond the grave and return.  (The author of this work didn’t do the Disney trick, but the emotional effect was similar.) I wish they had believed that the characters on stage were sufficient. I did.

p.s. Apologies for not disclosing the piece and/or author, but I’d like a chance to talk to them directly rather than have them run across my complaints in a web search.

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