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Review: Rock The Line by Kathleen Warnock

Posted on 27 February 2006 by Caryn Rose (0)

This play is about fans waiting in line for 8 hours to get into a concert.

Okay, that’s a gross oversimplification. But this is not a situation that is foreign to me, as most of you know. I have always maintained that waiting-in-line time is in its own dimension. Emotions are high, concentration is nil, you are liberated from mundane life for the most part, even now with cell phones, even back then when there are photographs of me waiting in line for the Who while studying for a history exam.

I bring this up only because the world Warnock brought us into is one I know intimately. So I am sympathetic to the subject matter.

This is why I was slightly disappointed in the story she presents. The characters aren’t archetypal enough to extend out of the community she was inspired by, and weren’t unique enough to make me care. They weren’t strong enough to be a tribute, nor were they honest enough to make me believe in them.

Waiting in line is the great equalizer. The first one there is the first one in. Money, education, job title, none of it matters in the line. You find yourself having conversations with people you simply wouldn’t have the opportunity to in everyday life, whether it’s a district attorney, a waitress, or a clerk at Wal-Mart. Some of that was conveyed in Rock The Line, but not strongly enough.

“It’s 12 o’clock. The door doesn’t open until 8pm. What are we doing here?” one of the characters observes, early in the play. I wish this question had been addressed more honestly. The characters explore their reasons for being there, but it was all too cliched for me: the object of their affections, Patti Roxx, saved their life, gave them hope, was a source of inspiration. All of which are the kinds of things you’d hear in any line for any concert. The question to me has always been – but what makes you sit here for 8 hours when 90% of the people coming to this concert are just going to show up at 7:30, and probably feel that they have been as moved or inspired as you are? It’s a question that begs exploring and it wasn’t done here. A character who questioned that and engaged them was missing, I think. It sometimes felt as though the characters would be so recognizable to those in on the joke (like half the audience; I’ve never been to a *play* where audience members had attended multiple times and half of them seemed to know each other) that she was afraid to be truthful.

The moral of the story: there is more to life than the show. This felt hollow and weak, probably because I didn’t believe the defining moment, where one character makes a decision not to attend the show and convinces another to go with her. We suddenly abandon everyone else and I felt short-changed. “There is more to life than the show” is something my mother would have said when I was 15. To women in their 30’s, like the characters, that lesson has already been learned and rejected, and their sudden embrace of it seemed unconvincing.

Of course, so many things were just right on: everyone dressing alike, or at least within an accepted dress code; the shorthand that everyone speaks in – Warnock nailed it, while keeping it accessible to the audience; the little details, like numbering everyone’s hand with a sharpie to keep the line in order. There is so much here that could be ridiculed or glorified, but since it was written by an insider, I was hoping for a little more truth. And since this was, ultimately, my story, I held it to a higher standard and expected more.

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