Flux Sunday, March 16th
ALONE AND TOGETHER
One of our most exciting and well-executed Flux's that I can remember, our work together on the 16th seemed to coalesce around themes of aloneness and togetherness. Those themes were especially lovely and unsettling in Johnna Adams' play Oneida, Servants of Motion, about the Perfectionist communist christian utopian community that thrived for 33 years in upstate New York in the mid 1800's (picture to the left). The Oneidans share everything, including and most famously there marriage - all the women of the community were married to all of the men - and in this "complex marriage" (as they called it) women were encouraged to have multiple partners and the men required to practice male continence. The incredible closeness of this community lead (for some) to an equally strong alienation; and those themes echoed through the rest of our work.
SIMPLE: WHAT ALONE SOUNDS LIKE
In Jaime Robert Carrillo's play Simple, that alienation was at its strongest. Director Kate Mark and a cast of Joe Mathers, Gretchen Poulos and Jake Alexander found theatrically evocative ways to stage Jaime's themes of disconnection: one actor would turn upstage and say the lines as another actor silently acted saying them. Simple, but effectively disturbing, and Joe as the Clerk and Gretchen as Gigi and the Waitress found the humor surrounding Jake's portrayal of Perry as an open walking wound. We'd read these scenes at a Sunday last year, but Kate's staging really brought these first scenes to a disturbingly vivid life. Perry tries increasingly asocial ways to establish any kind of social connection.
ONEIDA: ALONE IN A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE
In contrast, Mary has an entire utopian community married to her to help her through the pain of her stillborn child. But in this next scene of Johnna's Oneida, that only makes her feel more alone. Because the Oneidans also practiced open and vigorous group criticism, Mary's failure to bring a child to birth subjects her to not only the group's concerned love, but also their concerned criticism; particularly at the hands of Ann, the head of criticism fiercely played by Flux newcomer Nitya Vidyasagar. In order to make up for her failure, Mary (heartbreakingly played by another newbie, Autumn Horne) asks for more and more severe criticism. This unsettlingly funny and sad scene was well staged by Jaime and featured additional great work from Jane Taylor, Ken Glickfeld, and Jason Paradine.
TEXAS TOAST: OTHER MARRIAGES DINING TOGETHER
In contrast with the 'complex' communal marriage of Oneida, Katherine Burger's Texas Toast again contrasted the vital and cruel marriage of the Texan Bo and Sally against the fragile and kind marriage of East Coasters Claire and Andrew. I was lucky enough to direct a dream cast of Richard Watson, Elise Link, Amy Fitts and David Ian Lee; and in a dinner scene between the two couples, watch how subtly Katherine exposes the fault lines and shifting allegiances between them. The theme of childlessness from Oneida carries through into Claire's chilling public declaration of her own barrenness; and as Andrew continues to hide the secret of his dalliance in Thailand, our hopes for this couple come under increasing siege.
BIRD HOUSE: TOGETHER UNTIL YOU'RE NOT
But if Texas Toast hints at the impending doom of a couple, Bird House gives it to us direct, albeit in its trademark vaudevillian style. Syl and Lousy have the banter of mutual shut-ins shut-in for a very long time - playwright Kate Marks even has ancient versions of them occasionally commenting on the action. But Syl, inspired by the hints of war and death and full of her own ability to change things, leaves the musty safety of Louisy behind; and in the silly comic banter that ensues, a little of the loneliness these zanies may find creeps in.
A WONDERFUL WIFE: ALONE WITH YOURSELF
The denouement of Jeremy Basescu's A Wonderful Wife served as a lovely and apt denouement to our days' work: whereas the other four plays' scenes dealt with breaking apart and disconnecting, Wife ends with June coming together in herself. She doesn't need Carl, Max, or the vampiric Angela to find beauty any longer; she has found it in herself. She has become, in the memorable words of Max's girlfriend (and Angela's defiant daughter) Christine, almost like the air in a room; her presence expanding to fill everything while at the same time giving room for others to move within. Rob Ackerman's reading of Carl the husband's letter to his lost wife proved a melancholy counterpoint to June's newfound independence - he is finally all the way alone and his only grace, knowing he is the sole cause of it.
After all the scenes were done, we had just enough time to circle and discuss one moment in the day's work that had some 'heat'; and all five plays received well-deserved attention. And I left feeling lucky to be a part of Flux's own, ever evolving and always complex marriage.