Obsessively tinkering with Happiness

Now J waltzes in, in a too smooth to fool us that it is not scripted hand-off;  again, we are regaled with more literary historical insights, sounding detaching, and sounding authoritative. I am starting to suspect that many of the audience members are students by day; they are obedient and impassively listening, their faces blank. This is the download of information the hegemony of the direction offers us: this feels like a lesson about a political role model. Are we to ask whether this “part” is political theater? The download model of information? Why not just distribute to us timelines of SW’s life, and few pages of her bibliography, turn up the lights, and MAKE US READ for these interludes, instead of actors “working” for us, tutoring us? Paolo Freire, where are you? (Reading–what am I thinking–we watch so our eyeballs can stay still, and rest after the dreaded process of reading. Are we avid readers–no, we avoid reading. I am not reading this, just blabbing-blogging it. SW couldn’t seem to stop reading and writing in her life… ).

Only one person is taking notes. A woman. With pencil–no, with the pen from the swag bag–on yellow legal paper. She is wearing a scarf.

Ah, rape! CW interjects into the discussion, with what seems to be an unstaged interruption–and more pens approach papers, without rustling.

The first scene of the play: JK and JB –some of the gum-chewing stops, there is laughing, there are smiles–it feels like an interactive experience again, as opposed to a static one. The hierarchy between audience and the theatrical frame is re-established comfortably, even if the stage is on the same level as our own feet.

Violetta expresses her happiness: the interplay between C and C is subtle and funny, though it is not clear that the audience can see the nuances. Are we supposed to like this? Isn’t this…dreadful? Some of their faces seem to be saying? Etc? How willing are they going to be to question this play, if they are conditioned to respect whatever is in front of them.

When Jaffier’s speech, which is serious. Serious. unfolds, there is now laughter too–a little bit in the beginning; and then secret laughter along the table. That is, the audience is still holding the leftover cue to laugh from the previous scene–they knew that laughter was approved, so they aren’t sure if it is okay not to laugh now. It is the laughter of “oh yes we get it now” except they do not get it, or they would not be laughing!  They would understand this speech as it is–and not laugh. Somehow, tonight’s rendering of this speech gets lost somehow, its words don’t take root.

At last, the courtesan scene. And DL says “kill the lights” as if he did not say it every night…we are offered all of the talismans of the belief in theater. Oh, wow, we are “in” on how it’s done, they are showing us “the real thing.”

And then–miracolo!–the cell phone! A cell phone rings! “You going to get that?”  someone asks–even more shocking, the ringing acknowledged!

Then  JW interrupts, loudly–“Hey, what’s that book under your chair?”…whoa!

The room is destabilized–the courtesan scene has stopped. We do not know where to look for our entertainment–to the actors, stilled, or to DL, cueing us, or to the tension between JW and members of the audience. Are they going to keep chatting? IS this allowed to turn into a sleepover party? What would happen if that audience conversation kept going, and overthrew the tyranny of the script? Would we watch? Or leave? Revolt? Submit?

Is this a meta-interruption?

Is this staged?  Or real?

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