“The Book Club Play” at Arena Stage

Last night, I went to see "The Book Club Play" by Karen Zacarias at Arena Stage. "The Book Club Play" is about a longstanding book club of five people who are being filmed for a documentary about book clubs. The club meets every two weeks during the course of the filming, and the play is about how the filming of the documentary  – and the stepped-up meeting frequency – affect the group and ultimately cause its demise.

Bookclubplay"The Book Club Play" was enjoyable. While it focused less on the book discussions and more on the relationships between the book club members, I did like the parts when they actually discussed the books and how the books affected them. The members end up reading two bestseller type books among the five selections – Twilight and The Da Vinci Code - much to the dismay of two members who are more focused on serious literature like The Age of Innocence and Moby Dick. Their distaste for popular fiction becomes a point of contention among the group, which I found interesting. I have avoided both of those books and liked hearing what the group thought of them.

The acting was pretty good, and while the unraveling of the book club's main organizer, Ana, was a little hard to watch, there were funny moments, and anyone who has been in a book club will recognize some familiar conversations and personalities.

There were some interstitial videos that played during set changes, in which rather unexpected people talked about the importance of books and reading and how books can change people's lives. I particularly liked the faux interview with the Wal-Mart book manager, green vest and all, who, when asked what his favorite book was, cited mine: Lolita. When asked why he picked a book with such a distasteful topic, he said what I always say: "It's the writing. How he could make such a horrid topic so entertaining is brilliant."

I wished that the play had gone a little deeper into the book discussions – it was long on action and lighter on analysis – but I think the point wasn't so much to talk about these books, but to examine the social phenomena of book clubs and the role that they play in many people's lives.

If you're in the DC area, "The Book Club Play" will be in town at Arena until November 6. Tickets are available here.

This was fun: When we walked in, we were asked to write our favorite book on a sticker and post it on a bulletin board. Arena is supposed to post a picture of the board on its Stage Banter blog, but it's not up yet. I will keep checking. (I wrote Lolita.)