Nothing Is More

A High Black Comedy in Verse with Music for Six Actors

Fiction - Drama
218 Pages
Reviewed on 02/15/2019
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Author Biography

Composer Gary Lloyd Noland (a.k.a. author Dolly Gray Landon & artist Lon Gaylord Dylan) grew up in a crowded house shared by ten people on a plot of land three blocks south of UC Berkeley known as People’s Park, which has distinguished itself as a site of civic unrest since the late 1960s. As an adolescent, Gary lived for a time in Salzburg and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where he absorbed many musical influences. Having studied with a long roster of acclaimed composers and musicians, he earned his Bachelor’s in music from UC Berkeley in 1979, continued studies at the Boston Conservatory, and transferred to Harvard University, where he added to his credits a Masters and a PhD in Music Composition in 1989.
Gary’s catalogue consists of hundreds of works, which include piano, vocal, chamber, experimental, and electronic pieces; full-length plays in verse, “chamber novels,” and other text pieces; as well as graphic scores. His award-winning chamber novel JAGDLIED was listed as one of the “Top 10 Books” of 2018. His compositions have been performed and broadcast (including on NPR) in many locations throughout the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia, and Australia. He founded the Seventh Species concert series in San Francisco in 1990 and, for 23 years, produced multiple concerts of contemporary classical music in California and Oregon. Gary is also a founding member of Cascadia Composers, one of the premier composer collectives on the West Coast. Gary has taught music at Harvard and the University of Oregon.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Nothing is More: A High Black Comedy in Verse with Music for Six Actors is a farcical attempt by author Dolly Gray Landon to lampoon and ridicule the elitism and pretension of both the art world and academia. Set in the fictional world of Pimpleton State Luniversity, Nothing is More is a musical and poetic play that introduces us to the minimalist artist, the outrageous Phangbang Bonation, whose art style known as “Nadaism” has taken the art world by storm. Essentially Bonation does nothing, “nada,” and calls it art. The Luniversity has introduced a degree higher than a Doctorate, called a Stool, and there are five budding academics striving for the degree and the lucrative “Modigger Prize.” Friends Pelvin Penisovich and Purvel Schlignatz are outraged by what they consider the fraud that Bonation is perpetrating upon the artistic and academic world and are determined to see him taught a lesson and drummed out of their world, shamed and ridiculed for the charlatan he is. Hatching a plan, the pair set out to impugn and destroy Bonation’s ascendant star in the artistic heavens. Throw in a couple of impressionable and malleable young female students, a chorus and a musical score, and you have the makings of Landon’s six-act play.

My initial reaction to Nothing is More was almost the same as Pelvin and Purvel’s response to Phangbang’s non-existent pieces of art – “the emperor is wearing no clothes.” I was ready to dismiss the author's work as having a laugh at the reader’s (or theatre-goer’s) expense but I continued reading in order to give the work a chance. Whilst it may transfer differently to the stage, the surfeit of nonsensical words and passages need to be visualized in the reader’s mind before they make much sense. Nonetheless, there was an element of depth to the writing, and understanding slowly dawned on me as to some of the clever techniques used by the author to gain my attention and understanding. Some of the longer sections of dialogue had much philosophical meat on them and some fascinating insights into the way we view and cherish the opinions of “artists” and “experts,” often at the expense of our own common sense or gut feelings. Phangbang Bonation was the star of the show and as a character bounced from one extreme to the other. In many ways I was reminded of a much more extreme FlashHeart from Blackadder, morphing to the extreme pragmatism and cynicism of Blackadder himself. No, it wasn’t an easy ride, but it was one worth persevering with. I won’t comment on the musical scores inherent in the play, as a musician I ain’t. Overall… “and now for something completely different!”

Anthony Elmore

Do you ever wonder how some people, no matter how horribly they dress, and how badly they act or even how rude they are, and yet people seem to love them and are drawn closer to them, no matter how despicable they appear? Well, Phangbang Bonation, an artist, is exactly what you would least likely expect him to be: a successful artist. What makes him tick? Is it the unique way he dresses, or is it something deeper? Is he truly as gifted as everyone says or is it all just a farce?

Nothing Is More: A High Black Comedy in Verse with Music for Six Actors is written by Dolly Gray Landon. This play was very interesting. It was a mix between Shakespeare and Joe Dirt, but uniquely written to prove a point which is well taken. Once I started reading it, I realized how much time the author had put into making it detailed, so that a director would easily be able to make that play look exactly like what the writer had in mind. It was a different way to look at our educational system, but it was hard to put down. It had a fast pace, an unusual environment, and the characters were all unique. They meshed well together; the hero, and his nemesis clashed perfectly and, overall, it was exactly what you would expect in a play or book. Since it has strong language and a few sex scenes, I would suggest an audience of no younger than eighteen.

K.C. Finn

Nothing Is More: A High Black Comedy in Verse with Music for Six Actors is a work of drama and script for the stage penned by writer Dolly Gray Landon. This six-hour dramatic script has original musical compositions and focuses on the definition of art from vastly different perspectives. In a bizarre university setting where all sorts of strange specialisms are welcomed and celebrated, this philosophically challenging work, the strange aesthetic of ‘Nadaism,’ produces an art form which is literally nothing. As many conspire to rebuke this so-called approach to art and uncover the nonsense artist for what he truly is, the schemes take twists and turns to a startling and unusual climax.

Students of both art and philosophy are sure to get a lot out of the ideas discussed by playwright Dolly Gray Landon, though the linguistic challenges and explicit content won’t suit every reader. As a play in itself, the episodes of the conflict are well paced and well staged, reading well even from script and making it easy to imagine the characters and how they would play out in front of an audience. That said, the complex language and creative considerations won’t suit everyone, but for those who appreciate a critical challenge with plenty of dark laughter, the schemes of Pelvin and Purvel are sure to bring smirks to lips. Overall, Nothing Is More is certainly recommended as a powerful intellectual work for a select audience.