With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
A reaction from an NYC play. I won’t make a habit of it but I am compelled to write about the play my wife and I experienced last night.
Scenes From A Marriage currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop in the East Village.
There has already been a wonderful review in The New Yorker by Hilton Als, so I will try not to rehash the literary potatoes.
Instead, I would like to entice you to spend an evening in awe.
The large theater has been broken up into a triangle encased in glass. Three scenes run simultaneously for the three separate audiences. The glass center is often used as the refuge for the characters and all three audiences can see and hear glimpses of the other scenes taking place while their act plays out in front of them, through them and on them, the actors move freely through the audience, occupying seats, floorspace and air.
Every 45 minutes, the audience is invited to move from stage to stage. What was once tantalizing (what is going on in that other room?) is soon realized as the three scenes repeat themselves.
Then there is an intermission for which the audience is required to vacate the theater for 30 minutes, maybe go to a nice tapas restaurant on 2nd Ave (La Cerveceria) for a quick imported beer from Norway or a white Sangria.
Upon returning, the triangle has been removed and the theater is complete, a flat floor-level performance space. And the main players from the previous scenes join each other for a final hour.
As revolutionary as this theatrical construct seems, it would be mere charming trifle (like the nervous giggles from audience members whenever they see male nudity or hear foul language on a Broadway stage) without the drama in each marital scene.
Four couples at different times in the play are facing a conflict in their marriage. Raw, unfiltered emotional and physical wounds open and splash upon us. We are all so close to these extremely private scenes, mundane and common yet so personal it feels like an intrusion even though we were invited.
One of the scenes is a dinner scene where one couple spits vitriol at one another while their hosts look on uncomfortably. We are the guests of an unforgettable metaphorical dinner party, left with an unease and familiarity we commonly think about but so rarely face.