How Dull Is Profanity at Undermain? There Are No Words

Undermain Theatre is presenting the world premiere of East Coast playwright Sylvan Oswald's Profanity, directed by Katherine Owens. The title could serve as a warning, for you will curse Undermain for choosing to produce this unremarkable drama and curse yourself if you've already bought tickets to it.

It's a damn shame fine actors Alex Organ, Bruce DuBose and Michael Federico have to tie themselves in knots trying to enliven characters so bleakly drawn as Profanity's Whitey, Gersh and Leo. Here are men as drab and empty as the dozens of beige metal filing cabinets standing like ugly sarcophagi on designer John Arnone's set in the catacomb-like theater space.

The men are brothers in Philadelphia in the 1950s, operating a failing real estate business whose only profits are from selling homes built on a sewage-soaked landfill. When one of the angry homeowners, Vivian (Shannon Kearns-Simmons), uses subterfuge to get a job in the office and access to files that will bring the brothers down ... look, you don't need to know more. Because Profanity isn't Glengarry Glen Ross or Ibsen's The Master Builder (which is a laugh riot compared to this thing). It's a journey to Dullsville. It's 90 minutes of dialogue like this: "It's probably a little rain or a leak or, um, did you spill?" Note the "um." There are a lot of "ums" in Oswald's humdrum conversations. Here's another gem, uttered by DuBose's character, the glum big brother, Gersh: "When the sun has set, it's the end of the day."

Bruce DuBose, Michael Federico and Alex Organ play brothers in Undermain's premiere of Profanity.
Courtesy Undermain Theatre
Bruce DuBose, Michael Federico and Alex Organ play brothers in Undermain's premiere of Profanity.

Details

Profanity Continues through October 12 at Undermain Theatre, 3200 Main St. Call 214-747-5515.

Really, 10 minutes in, you'll feel like you've been there all night. You'll want to scream all the obscenities you know just to get out of another fucking second of Profanity.

 
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4 comments
buddyw
buddyw

I saw this play last night and I really couldn't disagree with this review more. Sylvan Oswald doesn't deserve a Pulitzer or anything, but it was decently written and the production was well acted.. I found it intriguing.

To quote Eric Hoffer: "When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored."

baggirl2000
baggirl2000

after taking the time to read this review, I couldn't disagree more.  We saw this play last night and while it wasn't my absolute favorite of all of the 30 years of amazing theater offerings in the history of The Undermain, I thought the acting was strong and superb, the set(s)/lighting were amazing and the play itself was mysterious, very interesting and compelling.  Apparently I'm not the only one.  Every other review I've seen from other theater critics had glowing things to say about it.   We attend 50+ local performances every year ranging from dance, opera, museum exhibits, spoken word, etc., in addition to what we see in other cities, so it isn't as though we aren't aware of what's out there.  

I'm also a little hesitant to take seriously any critic who feels the need to use profanity in a public critique of any kind. Seriously?  You can voice your opinion (whatever it may be) without that.  In my opinion, it lessens ones credibility among other things.  But then again, I don't read the Dallas Observer.  I found this review online through another forum.  

timtim
timtim

I saw Profanity tonight and really enjoyed it. This was my third Undermain play after seeing Time in Kafka and An Iliad last year. I have to say I was a little hesitant after reading this scathing review...but I thought it was just another great, captivating production.

robinstringfellow920
robinstringfellow920

Really Eliane, must you use profanity to make your point.  You're better than that!

 
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