Friday, March 20, 2009

Humanbean Tragedy

I'd never seen a Jacobean tragedy... or really anything Jacobean... before Wednesday night. And as I watched the second half of Centerstage's production of Tis Pity She's a Whore (the first half was marred by the fact that I could focus on little more than the fact that I HATED the costumes and was desperately searching for a rhyme or reason behind the design to make me not hate them), I ruminated on the script.

Because the acting is all right (sometimes very good) and the set is beautifully painted (thanks, ali d), but the script. It was like nothing I'd seen or read before (see above: "I'd never seen a Jacobean tragedy...")

What I know of the era is limited to what I learned in tenth grade history (ie there were Jacobeans and they were mad about something, and they might have written a bible. Or the Jacobeans wrote a bible and the Jacobins were mad, maybe about the bible.) And the fact that I've been swimming in Shakespeare for the past year or so (mainly UMD's Winter's Tale and Not Such Stuff.. the last of which you should check out at Venus Theatre) overall made the experience disorienting, mind-bending, eye-opening... not unlike the culture shock I felt when my family first moved from the Deep South to the Central Valley.

My point. John Ford's writing is a bit more accessible to a modern audience than The Wordsmith's, and since I have only this play to go by I can't tell you whether it's his writing or the evolution of the English language. There is a much heavier emphasis on religion and society's grip on the characters, but again I don't know if this is the era or the writer. And I don't care. This is a play about two characters who are truly, deeply in love with one another and are driven to a bloody, murderous fate (bringing about three quarters of the cast of characters with them) because their society and religion is built in such a way that that could be the only end. And I mean, that's enough for me.

Because here's the thing. As a sister with only one brother, I get the inherent ickiness. I get that it's gross, wrong, deplorable, the whole works. But watching, entranced, as they discovered their mutual affection for each other and consummated their love in the corridors of their father's house, even as my stomach turned I rooted for them. Here was a pair of people who were honest, loving, true to their feelings, surrounded by people who sought money, power, authority, anything but love in a marriage. (Interesting that this should come so soon after AZWiner's ruminations on marriage and fidelity.)

And because of everyone else's disgust for their love, everyone, and I mean everyone, died. Died bad. I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if all the other characters had just minded their own business and let old rivalries alone instead of plotting for revenge and murder, and then revenging and murdering the wrong people. This was no Oedipus, in which the gods revenged themselves on (somewhat) innocent people. This was people, getting pissed about love that does not concern them, and hurting others for it. And it was other people, getting pissed about rivalries or past transgressions and ultimately only hurting themselves and the people they love.

It (literally) rips your heart out.

All I'm saying, is that it sounds familiar. Oh so ridiculously modern.
And it makes for a great show, a beautiful tragedy.
But the reality just, sucks.


Jason Heat said...

This (especially your last paragraph) reminded me of a quote I read just last night.

"I don't know if we're so much inured to apocalypse as almost sexually obsessed by it. We could only love apocalypse more if it had 4 liters of silicone in each tit. Think of all those videogames where the Earth's overrun by insect-aliens or there's been an atomic war and we're stumbling in the ruins with a gun we stole from a zombie. We should be grateful that we live in a culture so insulated from true horror it can afford to play with fear as entertainment."
- Grant Morrison

For those unaware, Grant Morrison vies with Matthew Good as most influential artist on me ever.

Ozkirbas said...

I thought the production was a bloody job well done. The costume choices were a little... well... odd... but it's a good show.

David Pratt said...

I'm really happy you titled this the way you did. Now I can always think of Brittany Graham as a Human Bean.

Ozkirbas said...

Jacobean - Jacob + Human + Juice = Human Bean Juice! Yay!

B.Graham said...

I love being a human bean, thank you David. Also, JohnOzkirbas I totally agree and recommend all to see the show. No one else has pattern issues quite like me, so I think they'll be okay.