As SOMETHING YOU DID moves into its final week, I’m taking stock of the work (I feel like I’m always “taking stock of the work”), and I like what I see and feel.
There have been a number of formal post-show discussions of our play — searing, informative dramas in themselves. And many more nights — I’d be willing to bet every night — there have been less formal “talk-backs” producing revelations and arguments on remorse, the penal system, forgiveness, the sixties, love and death and even the benefits of walnuts in your oatmeal cookies. That’s one of the things to love about Theater J: never a shortage of viewpoints willing and eager to be shared. This defines the true mission of audience member as participant, and it’s exactly what the theater should be providing.
In our scene study course at George Washington University, students’ witnessing of the play led to a full session’s discussion of our responsibilities — as individuals and as generations — in a moment-to-moment maintenance of society — for survival — how we govern ourselves.
Many times, comparisons are made that cast 1960’s college activists as self righteous and their modern counterparts as apathetic. I was a couple of years younger than the most vocal of the Viet Nam-era students. (Though I was a young conservative in a Southern conservative environment, I still was opposed to the war, in a teenager way.) The modern college students I know are neither apathetic nor self-centered, but very smart and very involved. I’m still weighing the scales: The draft. The computer.
And in the dressing rooms at the J, we have opinions differing even night to night on Alison’s guilt or innocence or the likelihood of her release from prison. (Note to cast: if I’m overstating this, forgive me. I should only speak for myself. Care to answer?) But this too marks the theater, and especially, I think, Willy Holtzman’s script. The play makes us all the more aware of life as aggravating multiple choice-answer quiz. Experienced through Ms. Holdridge’s singular understanding of playwrights and actors, everything about this show is a dialogue in our art’s ability to uphold the proverbial mirror — and the reflection of black and white we seek comes back all in gray.
My good friend, Kim Bruno, one the smartest people I know, wrote me this assessment:
“Guilt and innocence, loyalty to ideals and to friends, redemption — these are all enduring themes for drama. Holtzman’s play takes these timeless issues and places them in a modern context. As the play develops, the audience FINDS (my caps and italics) how secrets impact on first judgments. Who really is the guilty party?
(Indeed, I was reminded of an earlier time in American history when Ralph Waldo Emerson confronted Henry David Thoreau in a prison cell and asked, ‘What are you doing in there?’ only to hear the moral retort, ‘What are you doing out there?’)
This is drama of a very high order.
Is there redemption for the characters? When should society cease punishing a criminal for an act done? Personally, I was left wondering when a moral person should sacrifice one principle (loyalty to a cause or a former friend) to another principle (leaving prison to redeem their prior bad act).
The play does not end with the dimming of the lights. This night, unresolved issues must be decided by each member of the audience.”
So thanks to all of you who have seen this show. If you haven’t yet, your chances are falling like the leaves. The world of this play is painted only through October 3.
And thanks to Ari Roth
AND THE TJ STAFFF — too many to name and too wonderful to describe in words.
I’ll try to blog again during odd couple…