Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Play a Day: The Tallest Building In The World

Matt Schatz
For Tuesday I read The Tallest Building In The World, by Matt Schatz, and available at New Play Exchange. On of these days I will read his An Untitled New Play By Justin Timberlake but everybody has been reading that and loving it so I thought it could wait.

You know, my wife wrote a play and that play was being produced at the New York International Fringe Festival in downtown Manhattan. We had a company of young people and during our off-hours we'd go everywhere and see everything.

One of our members really wanted to see the World Trade Center, and a small group broke off to check it out. Big, ugly buildings, or so they said. I was hungry or something and wanted to get lunch, so I passed. Maybe some other time. This was in August, 2001.

You knew I was going to conclude my little story with something like that, a fact like that, there was an obvious dread in the entire anecdote. Here it comes. And so it is with any tale bout the Twin Towers. Like the Titanic, an enormous human undertaking through which no story can be told without a foreknowledge of its horrible demise.

Schatz's play is not about the end of the WTC but its beginning, a debate between those who would determine its fate, who would collaborate and argue to create what was at one tie, for a short time, the tallest building or buildings in the world.

There was a time when we reached for the future, instead of cringing from it. Schatz tells an expansive story with great economy, utilizing a small number of interesting characters who debate and kvetch with wit and passion to build a dream for the future. The tragedy as they see it is the predetermined ephemera of architecture. Superlatives like "tallest" are fleeting, and as the playwright points out, "architecture might be the only art form where the art is destroyed as a means of progress."

The audience is all too aware of the flaws in the logic of their design, and how the techniques employed to make the thing possible are also elements which will contribute to its eventual destruction.

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