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Have Another and America's Adolescence

Sunday, January 16, 2011 Leave a Comment

When we choose seasons, we pay special attention to the ways the plays speak to each other. But when choosing scenes for Have Another, we focus more on who the playwrights are, and which Flux Sunday scenes struck the strongest chords.

But while hosting the rehearsals for Have Another #5 this weekend, I noticed an interesting shared theme about adolescence and consequences. Growing up is above all taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions; of realizing things don't often work out exactly the way you expected; of making plans that prepare for the uncertain world; of owning the messes you make.

Under this definition, I feel our country has regressed again towards a kind of adolescence: putting off passing necessary environmental legislation; pretending it's possible to spend more, cut taxes, and somehow reduce the deficit; entering into wars without exit plans; and then acting with a childish denial of responsibility when obvious consequences come home to roost. I say this knowing my own actions still sometimes follow this adolescent pattern, despite my best intentions.

All three plays for this Have Another explore this theme in fascinating ways. In Kristen Palmer's Sacrifice, teenage Emmie looks around at a town where family farms have been devoured and manufacturing jobs have dried up; where the adults of her life have betrayed her or let her down; where she feels she has to take the responsibility the adults have abandoned and change things in dramatic fashion.

In Katherine Burger's Ever Ever, Peter Pan and Lost Boys have left NeverLand for an apartment in Manhattan but still haven't grown up. Now in their sixties, the boys and Wendy have their suspended adolescence upended by the "agent of change" Crocker Dial, a reptilian figure of mystery who one by one, brings the consequences of time and age to these defiantly childish adults. Ever Ever indulges in the pleasures of being a child while at the same time reckoning with it's limits.

In my play Denny and Lila, we meet that most bewitching form of American adolescent, the con artist. We've all met that charmer with the childlike vitality that admits no limits, who believes the night has no end. These charmers and con artists are almost irresistible, but they always leave someone else to clean up their mess. In some ways, contemporary America is the ultimate con artist, peddling a dream that everyone can have everything they want in a world of scarcity and loss.

As you might expect, none of these plays end well for the characters, though they have a great deal of fun as they fiddle and burn. Hopefully you'll see what I mean tomorrow night!