The public re-enactment of familiar situations is the genesis of culture. Witnessing song, dance, theatre, sermon and lecture you become a member, reinforcing your desires and to hatreds. And thus informed, we become agents of our dynamic culture, repeating the lessons, chanting the truth to each other.
The dramatization of C. S. Lewis’s novella , ‘The Screwtape Letters’, was staged at New York’s Pearl Theatre by the Fellowship of Performing Arts. As the Satan-fearing demons Screwtape and Toadpipe, Brent Harris and Marissa Molnar animated the sermon with strength and agility.
Satan is the menacing external force from whom pure and resourceful devotion might keep us safe, we the numerous, optimistic, liberal boomers out for an evening of philosophical theatre, engaged in a ritual that positioned us cerebrally against the actual events of our time under the heavenly dome of globalized America, where we innocently and comically practiced our mild relationship with evil.
At the Atlantic Stage 2, in Dominique Morisseau’s ‘Skeleton Crew’, Lynda Gravatt, Nikya Mathis, Jason Dirden and Wendell B. Franklin are in survival mode, caught in the machinations of gender and industry as 3 machinists and a foreman face disastrous plant closure and their own desires. Initially fragmented into individuals incapable of concerted action, the group comes into being in the face of the menacing off-stage management, trying to keep power at a distance for another paycheck or two. We assembled behind them.
At the Berkeley Rep, in Ayad Akhtar’s ‘Disgraced’, Bernard White, Nisi Sturgis, Zakiya Young, J. Anthony Crane and Behzad Dabu frolic intellectually around the vast mall that is urban America, ethnicities assimilating each other while reserving distinction. We listened to each other, replied thoughtfully and determined our lives by our good choices. We enacted the rituals of marriage, work and social life, which created us ensemble. There were no enemies. It seemed to work so well until failing so tragically, so characteristically of a world in constant war. Disgraced is an unusual play in that it did not have external enemies. It could be that we are the enemy but are slow to say so.
I’m pleased to see that the dramatic arts are healthy, employing artists in sold out productions, individual and community spontaneously unifying in the encounter with the objects of desire and enmity.
‘Skeleton Crew’ plays until February 14, 2016 at Atlantic Stage 2, 330 West 16th Street. Atlantic Stage Theatre
The ‘Screwtape Letters’ plays at the Pearl Street Theatre until January 24th 2016 at 555 W 42nd St New York, NY 10036