I’m tired of sad. The ten years I’ve spent collecting degrees related to the making and study of literature have convinced me that it’s much more difficult to create a beautiful, meaningful, and solid piece of art that celebrates humanity than one that mourns for it.
Kassys looks straight into the face of that mournfulness, both in the form of a grieving group of characters and in acknowledgment of the tragic little human condition. It attempts to reveal the happy absurdities of life, and throughout much of the performance, most of the audience was in stitches. A scene in which six grieving characters absentmindedly revel in and destroy planters full of shriveled plants was deeply memorable, absurd and profound at once. The first half of the performance is a stage play, and then, as that play ends, the actors essentially step off the stage and onto the screen, where they become characters whose post-performance solitude in separate vignettes becomes the focus for the next half. It is an ingenuous mode of enlivening the old play within a play, and the implications of the film as “real” life are thought-provoking (maybe only if you’re a scholarly type). The show, as you watch it, makes you laugh. You are engaged by the absurdity first and foremost.
Yet when I left, I, for one, felt like I do when I leave a Bergman film. What I left the theater with was the deep sadness, the isolation, that lay beneath the humor. Perhaps I have no right to feel peevish that a performance entitled “Sorrow” made me feel sad, but for me the performance lost something in that the humor didn’t stick, in that I was left with that Bergman devastation I know so well.
Of course comparing the performance to Bergman is a compliment as well, and a deserved one. Technically speaking, the performance was brilliant, and the performers knew what Bergman knew about the quiet and the unquiet gesture, about the world in the space that lies between people, and the broad spectrum of the human condition that can be expressed in a perfectly blank face. Yet joy, too, and quiet happiness, have their deep part in the human condition, and its honest expression seems to me to be a struggle that is worth having, and one which lies beneath many of the performances at this year’s T:BA.
Posted by: Taya Noland