My race today got canceled because of snow that never actually materialized (the race promoter had to make a judgment call yesterday and the forecast wasn’t looking good then), but I’m grateful because I developed a sore throat yesterday and needed to take two naps today. It’s safe to assume I would not have done well had I tried to race. My racing season isn’t getting off to such a good start, but I can’t say I care a whole lot — the riding not the racing is the point for me. So far I’ve ridden 930 miles this year, which is just about what I rode last year, and I feel like I’m riding stronger and faster.
So, the play on Friday was a bit of a disappointment. I saw Vigil, written by Morris Panych and thought the play’s premise had a lot of potential that the play itself didn’t live up to. Mostly I was disappointed because I wanted to have the experience of losing myself in the performance, of forgetting that I was in a theater and getting so caught up in the story I didn’t want it to end. The last two times I’ve been to the theater I’ve missed that experience, and I wonder if it happens less often than I think, or if I’ve just had bad luck. I’m not one to lose myself easily in stories when I’m reading; I tend to keep an analytical distance, even when I’m enjoying the book and having an emotional response to the characters or the situation. I just don’t tend to forget I’m sitting there turning pages every now and then. With films, though, I’ll get caught up in the story fairly easily, and I wonder why that doesn’t seem to translate to the theater. Perhaps it has something to do with the way going to the theater feels like an event, as it isn’t something I do that often, and perhaps the unusualness of it makes me keep the self-awareness that precludes getting caught up in the story.
The play’s premise is that a lonely, isolated man, who is also almost unbearably self-centered and misanthropic, quits his job to come take care of his aunt who is on her deathbed. The aunt is not approaching death fast enough for this man, however, an opinion he makes abundantly clear to the poor woman. The first part of the play basically consists of jokes where the man says in a variety of horrifying ways that he wishes his aunt would hurry up and die.
What makes the play interesting is that, at least initially, the aunt doesn’t speak at all. This is not explained (at least not at first); we just accept that for some reason she responds to the man with gestures and facial expressions, but without words. I liked this set-up because it gives the man room to say whatever he wants, to reveal things about himself, to tell stories about his past, and he can do this because he has not just a listener, but one whose only judgment is a stare or a grimace or a smile. His audience never interrupts him, or offers an opinion, or asks him to be quiet.
The man does tell lots of stories about himself and does reveal things about his past and his personality (which is pretty messed up), but the disappointing thing is I never felt these stories added up to much. It was just one funny or moving or horrifying story after another. Now the play’s main plot is about the evolving relationship between the man and his aunt so it does have a traditional story arc that is satisfying in its own way, but so much of the play is taken up with the man’s monologues that I thought for sure all those stories would end up going somewhere. Instead they seemed to be there merely to make the audience laugh and to make the man look troubled and pathetic.
But in spite of my doubts about the play, I did enjoy the whole experience; it’s a pleasure to be able to critique something when it’s finished, after all, and that’s not a pleasure I take lightly.