From the Editor’s Perch

God of Carnage

by Yasmina Reza

Note:  Jorj can’t review this latest offering by the Seattle Rep because of contractual arrangements.  So this leaves your dear Editor the task.  Which is fine with me, because Yasmina Reza is my favorite playwright.

Ruth Yenter Plays a Character with Issues

Most of the reviews I have currently read about this production have been pretty much in the ballpark of what my friend Dan Green had to say at his blog (http://dangblog.wordpress.com/),  “Pretty funny, pretty lightweight.”   

To which I would reply: “Very funny, but lightweight?  Only deceptively so…”

The problems of human relationships which Yasmina mines with such theatrical success establish her as a leading interpreter of our modern world.  Recently, at an ACT Theater lecture series, Mindscapes, the local historian Mott Greene, detailed some of what we have learned about how our brains make sense of things.   When the external world rewards an idea we have,  by virtue of an arrangement of neuronal networking, these networks become established (myelinated).   What is interesting is that these ideas come from both stimuli entering from outside and from autonomous neural activity from within our own brains.  Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst, had much to say about this.  He described “complexes” which arise from within the brain.  When these complexes are able to define themselves through healthy encounters with the external world, they can become very positive and productive.  However, when they are unable to attach to an external verification, they often erupt as negative manifestations.    So, for example, he found that those patients with some of the most intractable “mother complexes” were actually orphans; people with no experience of mothering.

What I’m getting at is this:  As our culture becomes more and more socially isolating, what with children only raised by one parent, isolated play activities, decreased experience of either parent, tv and computer  use, and decreased traditional experiences – we risk never having the experiences necessary to ‘civilize’ these neuronal activities which continually arise.   And perhaps, we become a society that becomes harder and harder to ‘civilize’, as each issue becomes more and more of a ‘hot button’ and we ‘foresee’ the worst in each other.   In Yasmina’s plays, it’s the issue at hand which is hardly explored – and it’s the hysteria induced by just a slighting familiarity with the issue which produces the play.  In this current production at the Rep, the children have a relatively normal altercation – but the parents make rubble of each others’ entire lives while attempting to discuss it.  What could be more crucial to our complex modern existence but the ability to dispassionately discuss and resolve issues?    This playwright’s success indicates to me that we aren’t doing very well, and that huge numbers of well- educated people recognize this.

Extrapolating, I wonder if we haven’t reached the point often nowadays, where the person you are discussing an issue with simply hasn’t the neural network in place to understand what you are saying.  That is, your “two plus two equals four “ does not ring any bells for them – or if it does, they’re alarms!   And I wonder if this is the next turn Yasmina’s new plays might take.  Whatever, I’ll be there to watch and learn… and oddly, to laugh and enjoy myself.  For awhile.

Photo by Carl Nelson

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