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Wrong Mountain

By David Hirson

Directed by Ian Streicher

Produced by Rare Terra Theatre

At The Second Stage, Chicago

Too wordy, too presumptuous, too long equals boredom equals Wrong Mountain

“What is the ultimate value of art; does it exist to entertain or challenge?”

Broadway theater is “sanctimonious kitsch that’s embraced as high art by an audience of suburban morons dim-witted

enough to believe that by going to a play they’re having some sort of cultural experience.”

“Is it possible to devote a life to passions misspent, climbing, as it were, the wrong mountain?”

All of the above quotes are given long dissertations in David Hirson’s pompous play, Wrong Mountain, now in its Chicago premiere by Rare Terra theatre at The Second Stage. Wrong Mountain is about many great ideas and themes centering on what is art and is theatre a fraudulent art form?  It also deals with the American view of success. Those themes are grist for the mill for a playwright. Unfortunately, David Hirson over wrote his play with too many quotes, too many thesaurus-found words that necessitated audience members  carrying a dictionary  to fully appreciate Hirson’s meanings.

rare terra theatre

The play is a contrivance so that Hirson can present his debate about the nature of art and why theatre is a pornographic exercise.  Much of the dialogue was “playwright speak” with words and phrases that never could come out of the mouth of a real person. The play sounds like the players were echoing or reading a PhD thesis.  The dinner where Henry Dennett (Richard Sandoval) argues and insults his ex-wife’s new lover, Guy  Halperin (Michael Dickson) came off as pure academic polemic with some personal insults. Henry is a bitter, underachieving poet who loathes theatre while championing poetry. He hates art that seems to pander to the middle class, etc.  The arguments here are too long, too wordy, and too academic.

david hirson

It seems that Henry’s internal pain is real as a large tapeworm has invaded his body. This sparks a rousing overuse of symbolism . Next, as bitter as Henry is, he take a dare with a bet that finds him writing a play with the presumption that he’ll get it produced in six months. Wow! That lands him at a theatre festival camp where he and two other playwrights will compete to win a trophy and get a full production of the  play mounted. If Henry wins, he also wins his bet with Halperin and a $100,000.

Add a theatre queen-like artistic directed over played by Douglas Vickers and the concocted story moves Henry from a cynic to a true believer in theatre. Its all too much to stomach. This bore drones on for two and a half hours with too much speech making with an unbelievable storyline. I had several problems with Henry as a character. He uses his pain, self-loathing and  academic knowledge to inflict insults with a most viciously arrogant attack upon American society and playwright Halperin.  Henry is so unlikeable that we quickly lose any empathy for him – we simply don’t care about him. Richard Sandoval has loads of trouble with many of his lines rendering some of his arguments muddled.  I also though Doug Vickers so over played the artsy Maurice that his performance bordered on cartoonish.  This play not only needs severs cuts but it made me wonder why Rare Terra Theatre would select such material? The cast worked hard to make this play worthy but the material and the underdeveloped characters merely served a foils for Hirson’s polemic.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: September 14, 2012

For more info check the Wrong Mountain page at

At The Second Stage, 3408 N. Sheffield, Chicago, IL, call 773-305-5643, tickets $18 – $28, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through October 14, 2012

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