That's the trouble with expectation. It's the dumbest human capacity ever.
The Argument was the best thing I've seen on a New York stage in years. I'm still mulling over what exactly it was about it that made it so engaging for me. It's possible that it was owing largely to the performer's charisma. Mr. Greenspan has a remarkable talent (skill?) for making himself inviting on stage, not just taking it by force, but literally giving you the option and making you feel as though it is continually your choice to pay attention to him. It's also possible that my interest in the subject matter--that is, the construction and mechanics of an effective living story--dominated my insecurities vis-a-vis the downtown scene. My fellow gaming geeks will no doubt agree that the construction of a good story is a topic of conversation that can inspire endless debate. Finally, there's the possibility that it was sheer empathy on my part. I've had to create my own work and hold a stage alone before (though rarely have the two conditions coincided [thus far]) and I am impressed on quite a personal level when I have the opportunity to witness someone achieving both.
But I hesitantly contend that there was a fourth factor to my renewed opinion of the scene. When I was doing 13th Avenue, the writer/director said something about going to school for years to learn all the rules and, with that production, intentionally breaking every one. I have since heard this sentiment expressed variously and in various contexts, and it invariably makes me hitch my shoulders in an effort not to throw a piece of furniture into something(-one) breakable. As I've said, I'm something of a classicist, but I feel I have good reason. Like an actor who (to pick a personal foible) makes a choice that gratifies his performance more than the story, people today are eager for an excuse to "break the rules." So eager, in fact, that this act is more often excused than it is actually motivated. I don't trust most people to understand the rule they're breaking well enough to understand what they stand to achieve by breaking it.
Watching Greenspan willfully but sensitively break some of "the rules" in his performance and creation of The Argument and, better yet, making it work in light of those rules was thrilling. I believed he understood each choice, and trusted the reasons behind them even when the literal purpose eluded me. Best of all, he was quoting these thousands-years-old "rules" to us as part of the performance. I can't even say for sure if it was theatre in the technical sense (Friend Geoff and I have a running discussion over the merits [or lack thereof] of the dreaded monodrama), but then again I suspect that's how the Greeks felt when Thespis (so it's rumored) stepped out of the chorus and began orating all by his lonesome. I can understand why the appeal of being such an originator might draw some artists to some unfortunate conclusions. Just remember, you lot: Picasso could really draw.