I gave this play every chance, I really did.
Terrified of being condemned as a Boring Old Fart who doesn’t understand the modern mind, I searched for meanings in the lower depths, tried to find metaphors in the dazzling visual technology that confused my brain and worried my eyes, reached below the cacophony of noise that modern music is to me, and worked out elaborate parallels between the real and the virtual.
But in the end, in spite of Bruce McKinven’s brilliant set and Scott Witt’s inspired direction, in spite of the glorious performances of Sarah Kennedy and Jason Klarwein (and Carol Burns’ clever filmed caricature of Margaret Pomeranz), I could only come up with one conclusion that if God is a DJ, then he’s definitely male, and he’s stuffed the world up very seriously.
The play begins by suggesting that heaven is a place where everything is legal, and the doors of perception are open to everyone who wants to make the effort to go through them. But as He (Klarwein) follows Her (Kennedy) around the room with his video camera, which is then projected on to a big screen at the back of the stage and thence to a television set, we begin to wonder if this is Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, or a modern remake of Sylvania Waters. Is it deeply metaphysical or just pretentious twaddle?
She (Sarah Kennedy, looking like a cross between Barbie, Madonna and Charlotte Rampling, remains silent for the first 30 minutes while He explains himself to Her) has her own reality TV show, where she is on camera non-stop just taking about anything at all. From the clips that we see of her, she makes the Big Brother candidates seem like raging intellectuals.
Kennedy gives the second-best performance of her life here (remember Sylvia?), a glamorous slip of a thing in a glamorous thing of a slip, first ignoring her cameraman lover then giving him the full sexual come-on, but when this neglected worm finally turns, we see Him through Her eyes, and what a lot of phoney rubbish his reconstructed radical commercialism really is. Yes, we are willing to suspend disbelief and allow his post-deconstructionist ramblings some credibility, because the way we communicate is perpetually changing, and a written text is no longer seminal to our understanding of anything. But as He stumbles his inarticulate way through his post-cool exploration of Truth and the Big Questions, he loses the plot, and the play descends into chaos as reality intrudes.
By the end of the play we can no longer believe Him, so when the reality of a potential baby arises, and we are subjected to his all-too-predictable account of the incestuous paedophilia he suffered as a child (oh pur-lease!), we can no longer accept the playwright’s premise, because he has blurred the boundaries once too often, and to descend into straight psychological reality at this stage of the game is to ask too much of an audience.
The character He may be a tiresome little junkie who makes us wonder what he’s on, and thankful that whatever it is hasn’t crossed our paths at a dance party recently, but He is only so objectionable because Jason Klarwein is able to make him so. The contrast between Klarwein’s loveable baby face and his portrayal of this self-deluding wannabe artist who is going to create a new world order based on sound is astonishing, and Klarwein gives us the son that every parent must mourn because he’s got everything so wrong.
I’ve read the director’s notes and the playwright’s notes, and I’ve tried to relate what Leonardo, William James, Marie-Laure Ryan (who?) and Michel Foucault (misspelled twice in the program notes, if you want a piece of typical BOF pedantry) say to what is going on in this play, but I failed miserably. I’ve thought more about what it means and how it’s presented than I have about any play in a long time, but I remain as baffled and irritated by it as the many people who walked out during its 110 minute stretch.
This is not to say it’s a dreadful experience, because the set, which catches perfectly the fragmented life style and values of the twenty-somethings, is a joy to look at, and a relief from the human-faces-reduced-to-pixels that the back screen constantly projects, and there are some very funny vignettes, like Carol Burns inarticulately interviewing the dead-pan dumb blonde She, and a hilarious send-up of television cooking shows.
I’m very glad I saw it, and I urge anyone who is keen to follow new directions in modern theatre to swallow their prejudices and go along, but my initial reaction, that it’s full of sound and fury, and signifying very little, remains unchanged.