Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Do Not Do This Ever Again

Play #7: Do Not Do This Ever Again by Karinne Keithley

I have a collection of plays called Joyce Cho Plays. Joyce Cho, it turns out, is a cohort of experimental playwrights. The post I made the other day about Christmas 'Cracker... that was a Joyce Cho play. Today's play is another Joyce Cho play. And it makes the last one look like Arthur Miller.

Do Not Do This Ever Again feels more like a poem than a play. It's sort of difficult to locate all of Artistotle's elements of drama in this piece. And it is most definitely a play that I should probably read a dozen or so times before venturing to write anything about it, so this is going to be a bumpy ride. Divided into five parts, there are no characters per se, merely performers sharing memories or ideas or moments. In "Part One: More Important Than Mail," the four characters listed only as A, B, C, and D seem to float past each other - almost interacting, but not quite. There are stories about trains and giraffes and plants and Doritos... I can't really tell you quite what was happening. In "Part Two: In Which a Treatise On Ruins," another character named G delivers a long monologue about his experience as a sacrifice to the Beast in the city of the future. While he survived the sacrifice, his cohort Ed did not. And still, despite the sacrifice, the world he returned to is a dark, muted version of itself. "I expect the recurrence of hope will be actually devastating," he observes at the end of Part Two. "Part Three: An Operetta in (X) Scenes" features such characters as Marie Antoinette, Esme the cat, and three singing deer. The Operetta is followed by a short song listed as "Part: Inter-Part" that seems to be - if it's about anything - unknowability. Finally, the piece concludes with "Part Four: Dim 'O,'" in which A and C seem to narrate unpunctuated observations interspersed with B and G as Johnny Tradescant and His Pa catalog the deaths in their families in a strange background TV show.

As I said... this is a piece that is far too complex to be treated in a manner as cursory as the one I'm giving it. I would be fascinated to see this on stage, just to see the imagination that would have to go into bringing text like this to life. I will say that there is definitely a common idea about the future that flows through this piece - a dark, uncertain, uncontrollable future seems to tug at all of the characters - even the ones like Johnny and His Pa, who are so focused on the past. With a past like theirs - so full of death - how can they have any hope for the future? And is that the question that we ask throughout? Is the play really that bleak? Or is it urging us to look forward, no matter how dark the view may be? I don't have any answers... and I should probably read this play about twenty more times... and maybe I'll start to have some of the right questions.

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