After eight previews over the past two weeks, Ingenious Nature is set to officially open its five-week off-Broadway run tonight. This means the critics have already been in to see the show, but none of them have had their say just yet, at least not in print. Over the next few days I’ll find out their verdict, which holds great sway over the future of the production, for better or for worse.
Our press shows were last weekend, and they were… mercurial. Saturday night’s show was the best by far, but for the week prior I literally re-wrote the end of the show on a nightly basis, staying up until the wee hours agonizing over the script, then (mostly) memorizing the new lines in the morning, emailing the revised pages to the team, and trying it on stage for a New York audience the same night. I have always romanticized the creative process as portrayed in the film Shakespeare in Love, with the company shouting “Will, where are my pages?!” and Shakespeare frantically scribbling and changing things and trying to keep up. It’s messy in theory and messy in practice, none of your poncy reflections-in-tranquility, but this is the first time I have experienced that degree of pressure and daily transformation first-hand. It’s thrilling and all-consuming and pretty much as awesome as it gets, from my perspective (although I know it was often exhausting for the rest of the team, dealing with the constant rewrites).
The show was untested until last week, though, and there were things that simply didn’t work when I came in to try them out in rehearsal. The challenge was to find an ending that gives a sense of closure when the story is about (a fictionalized version of) my love life (and Jamie’s, to a lesser degree), and that’s not exactly a story with a natural happy ending, just yet. Thanks to some awesome live-participation technology, the show is now a choose-your-own-adventure, with the audience deciding my fate on a nightly basis. Or maybe I decide my own fate and the audience just helps me rationalize that decision. I won’t give everything away, since I still hope many of you can come see it. And for those of you too far from New York, we will do an album version before too long.
To give you a feel for the show, here’s a great preview article from the online magazine Evolution: This View of Life, with an audio clip of the show’s audio peer-review team, including Steven Pinker, Sarah Hrdy, Martin Daly, Jonathan Haidt, and many others of note. Also, here’s a sweet blog review from Principle into Practice, the first critical response to appear in print. And yes, there will be more to come once the New York press have had their way with me.