In an unstable landscape of shifting allegiances, just how much faith can we have in own senses, our family members, our co-workers, our own creative impulses, our government, and nature itself?
Known for making theatre happen in unusual spaces, Quantum has mounted a thoughtful, intelligent video production of Caryl Churchill’s absurdist evisceration of trust.
I’m very glad I was streaming, so I could scroll back to make sure I correctly heard one line about cats and the French.
In isolation, the scenes resemble abstract, quirky acting exercises: “You’re visiting your aunt in the country, and you witness something unsettling.” “You’re a dystopian hatmaker, and your conspiracy theorist co-worker has a crush on you.”
At first the scenes seemed linked more by theme and character development than by a conventional plot. Like the hats that feature in the middle section, the scenes are simultaneously specific arrangements of components that our senses can grasp, and also meaning-laden parables to be interpreted.
The performances are rich and complex. A slightly delayed smile that speaks volumes. An open-handed, vulnerable gesture, made by a character whose words are as mendacious as they are sincere. Moments of shyness and affection in bleak settings.
The past year of pandemic-driven uncertainty, divisive political drama, and profound global changes in our society all make Churchill’s play (written in 2000) a perfectly suited opportunity to look into the mirror and assess our own agency and complicity.