13 March 2006


It occurs to me that I will never actually be able to keep up with the amount of stuff I want to keep up with. I have set my sights too high for the moment, but I'm still going to make the attempt.

The last post ended with a promise to finish explaining my thoughts on the play The Wooden Breeks. It was, as I pointed out, a BIG THEME play. It's about telling stories and being trapped and being buried alive and it's about love and it's about memory. It's about what we have to give up to get and what that exchange rate is. And whole equals less than the sum of the parts.

Why this is so its a bit mind-boggling. This is a play in which a scorned fiance disappears inside a hope chest (presumably he's gone to live in the past), an orphan boy runs around with his hand stuck in the poor box, a man grows up having never stepped outside his lighthouse and a woman sells those bells that attach to the inside of coffins in case people aren't really dead. This all happens in the imaginary and singularly bleak town of Gloom, at the center of the story being told to our orphan with the box.

The play fails in a handful of ways that are so mundane that it is almost painful to relate. The first is that it's repetitive. The audience gets that the gravedigger is creepy and threatening and the orphan boy has seen things he shouldn't have. We don't need three scenes an act reminding us. No really.

The second problem is a stranger complaint, because I'm about to say Berger didn't do something that he in fact did do. He never clearly states the character's goal, or rather he does, but immediately takes it back. You see, our dear orphan has been abandoned by his mother, lo these nine years ago. The storyteller is the missing mom's fiance (no relation to the kid). And every night for nine years he's told the kid another story about why mom has been delayed. His goal then, as stated, is to NOT tell the story. But he does. So his goal is to END the story as quickly as possible, a goal which is complicated by a magic fire that must go out first. In the real world, it's a fire that refuses to die. In the story world it's the light of the local lighthouse, which as a I mentioned before, is kept by a man who's never been outside. Of course these old flames are symbols: of the things that we protect that prevent us from moving on. The things that get us to bury ourselves alive.

Ok, so I thought the play failed (as did a lot of the audience, which seemed to disappear during intermission). But it was a big beautiful failure, which I have a lot more respect for than a safe little success. I just wish I could have sat in a workshop room with Berger and try to convince him to cut the script and move stuff around and not have the characters make large pronouncements at the audience.

Which does not explain, at all what I think it has to do with Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Maybe next time.


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