Thursday, November 29, 2012

I can't very well drink to your chastity; that vow's gone.

          “Twelfth Night; or, What You Will” by William Shakespeare, “The Wedding” by Bertolt Brecht, and “The Real Inspector Hound” by Tom Stoppard all tell stories that push the bounds of reality. The plays ask for a willing suspension of disbelief so that audiences can enjoy such wonderfully absurd stories. As people find themselves more and more pressed for time, being burdened by work, relationship troubles, financial struggles, and so many more things, it is both necessary and healthy that they take the time to find joy and experience the wonder that is a play.
          “The Wedding” had the most over the top wedding reception highlighting all the nuances of drama within a family, between friends as the wedding party experiences everything one would hope not to encounter at a wedding celebration. The furniture, made by the husband, continued to break throughout the entire evening. The wedding party went through so many bottles of wine that I lost track. The father of the bride told countless stories the best of which were about how many family members died in the bed he was offering to give the newlyweds. From shattering a glass vase with the leg someone broke off from the table to the bride not dancing the traditional first dance with her husband, the story asked you to step back, take in the whole story, and generally, just be glad that that was not your family. 
          “The Real Inspector Hound” tested your mental acuity by asking you to follow a complicated plot in which actors pretending to be theater critics actually step into roles in the play they are observing, and we watched as the play and their real lives merge until the line between the two is completely blurred. The play initially presented with intrigue as two people clothed from head to toe in black fabric brought a dead body onto the stage that they had just cleaned up from the previous play. Then, two theater seats were put on stage, and an actor sat down and proceeded to read the program, acting as audience member for maybe ten minutes. To recount the rest of the story would take pages upon pages of detail and would culminate in a conclusion that not even some of the actors truly understand (I asked). However, one didn’t need to completely understand the story in order to appreciate the acting ability displayed on the stage. In being overly dramatic in their actions, the actors captured the truly absurd overreactions of the actors who were acting in the play within a play. At its most basic level, theater critics, who were actors, finding their lives becoming synonymous with those of the play they are critiquing is outrageous in itself. It makes you wonder what it would be like if the same thing suddenly started happening to you and really makes you glad you don’t have to fear such an occurrence. If I never get shot in the plot of a play that I was supposed to be critiquing, I will be a very happy girl. And alive. 
          “Twelfth Night; or, What You Will” is no different in its complicated storyline filled with all kinds of implausible moments. Were the fact that the play centers around a female dressing up as a male and eventually falling in love with the male that she is serving is not enough, Shakespeare includes many more twists to really highlight the comedy in it all. Maria, Sir Toby, and the lot are rather cruel to an uptight Malvolio, pushing him to the brink of insanity and causing everyone else to refer to him as a madman until he eventually vows revenge on everyone. Twins, Viola and Sebastian. have an almost ‘Parent Trap’ like reunion, but instead of finding out that they only had one parent and never knew about the other one and the fact that they both liked peanut butter and Oreos, they find that their fathers both have a mole and died when his daughter was 13. It is the exaggeration of the whole story that makes it so outrageous and comedic and ultimately, so enjoyable. While I suppose the Duke to be a mildly good looking fellow, were I Olivia, I would have gotten eternally frustrated at the fact that a guy couldn’t tell me himself how he felt but rather had a servant who was actually a girl in disguise come and speak to me in beautiful prose and poetry. It is no wonder that Olivia fell in love with Cesario who is actually Viola. Shakespeare is so successful in story telling that he is able to invite the audience to delight in such outlandish occurrences without questioning their likelihood of happening in real life. It is not the plausibility of the story that the audience holds on to but rather its good nature. 
          Through a combination of actors and authors, the three stories are able to push the envelope drawing audiences into worlds the members would never experience elsewhere. We are lucky that we have such talented and creative people who work to bring joy and magic into what seems to be a perpetually stressed world. When we take the time to experience stories like these, we are invited to leave reality for a while and simply marvel in how crazy the world could really be (and also be thankful that our lives aren’t quite as complicated as theirs). 

          What had to be the most surprising or interesting thing I learned was that if you really look, you can find an appreciation for both the magic and wonder life in most any story you hear.

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