Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: Porch

PorchGallery – Goethe Institut 

Remaining Performances:

Sunday, July 20 at 6:45 p.m.

Friday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 26 at 12:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 27 at 4:45 p.m.

They say: After years of estrangement, a prodigal daughter reunites with her rigid but loving father and the lover she left behind. In one evening, she must relive the pain of the past and come to terms with an uncertain future.

Eva’s Take: When playwright Jeffrey Sweet revived Porch in 1984, critics met it with praise and admiration.

When I saw it on Sunday, I just thought it was out of place.

At first, it seemed like Porch was about a daughter and her father’s strained relationship, and all the reasons it’s so hard to understand the people who are supposed to love you the most: Manhattan versus Midwest, young versus old, traditional views of women versus the desire to be owned by no one. And while the show did raise these issues, it never adequately explored or satisfied them.

Sam (Sean Coe), the ex-boyfriend of Amy (Anna Fagan), takes the story in a new direction by characterizing Amy’s independence and need for solitude as loneliness. After the two share a few touching, nostalgic moments, Sam essentially asks Amy to give their relationship another shot.

When Amy seems hesitant, Sam keeps pushing her—insisting that it must be what she really wants. It isn’t until she lies to him, saying she’s already in a relationship, that he finally backs down. Amy is left on the porch with her father (Elliot Bales), who hovers over her and serves as a reminder of her choice to be alone.

It’s unclear what the takeaway is supposed to be. Should the audience feel saddened that Amy couldn’t let herself be loved? I only saw another example of a man unable to grasp that a woman would rather be alone than with him. After all, Sam only accepted Amy’s refusal once it was validated by the existence of another man. The only tragic part about that is the message it sends about female agency and voice.

Maybe I’ve just been reading too much XXfactor in Slate, but to me, Porch wasn’t really about uncertain futures, complicated relationships, or even challenging the status quo, as it may have been seen when it first took to the stage. In a contemporary setting, it only adds to the already noisy and misleading narrative about what women give up when they refuse to give in.

See it if: You’re looking for a few PG-13 chuckles with traditional themes.

Skip it if: You want a fresh take on age-old issues.

  • Jeffrey Sweet

    Sorry you didn't like it. Sorry, too, that I think you missed the point. But I'm guessing you weren't around at the time the play very specifically is set in -- when a lot of women felt themselves exiled from pasts that constrained them but weren't confident that there was a place for them to land in a still ill-defined new society. Ah well, some of the leading actresses of our time have been very happy to play this part over the years. Guess they saw more in it than you do.

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