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Keyword: ‘Lethe’

Harm’s Way, Part III — the summer camp attack

September 18th, 2015 No comments

Harm's WayFortunately, Wellman keeps things hopping in Scene 8 as Santouche stumbles into a gunfight alongside his buddy Fisheye at a saloon—well, I should say “along with” as Santouche sorta forces Fisheye to join up with him and then forces him to go into a viper’s nest via the back door. That’s no matter, Santouche has a score to give and Blackmange is the stick to cut it in.

Here the moral code of the American West is on full display: get the drop on someone and fuck’em in the ass. Santouche is an expert at this. Defying the offered seriousness of the situation it turns out that Blackmange is having a birthday party of all things. I can see the pointy, colorful hats and party favors tongue fucking the trilling inside of my brain from here. Fisheye offers a quick rundown on the weapon situation before being strong-armed by Santouche through the kitchen to flush out the party. As Santouche waits his old fling By Way Of appears to tell Santouche that Blackmange knows the location of his lady friend, Isle of Mercy. But Santouche is an arrogant dirt bag with blood on his mind and only wants to see Blackmange lying laying? Lying – he’s dead—so hasn’t he been placed? For real, tho. Lying in the dirt, red staining the dusty, walked-bare patch of scrub in front of the saloon. And so, Santouche continues cutting off his nose to spite his face. He calls By Way Of a man and then proceeds to call out Blackmange and gun him down…killing Fisheye in the process. Yowza.

A fantastic conversation between Santouche and By Way Of ensues. It truly rivals the ol’ Who’s on First routine in the absurdity of its winding around. Mingled, again, with a bit of ‘Shut the fuck up, Donny”, straight out of Lebowski. The conversation winds down with an accusation by By Way Of toward Santouche about his letting Isle of Mercy go out alone. Then she tells Santouche that she knows a man who can make a stiff talk. (Joke btw about Santouche not being able to recognize a stiff when he sees one.)

Scene 9. By Way Of Being Hidden, Santouche, the corpse of Blackmange, The Wizard. Dude is dressed old school primitive. Garlic and onions. Rattlesnakes. Serious and pompous all the same time. A magic balled-up paste is stuck on Blackmange’s tongue and BAM… Fanny’s your aunt! Blackmange spills the beans on where to find Isle of Mercy—with the Guyanousa. In this scene Santouche tellingly bemoans the fact that you “Can’t get no peace from a man / Even by killing him no more.” The Wizard lands joke number four about a stiff. If Santouche can’t recognize a dead man when he sees one, how can he know anything about himself—or being alive, for that matter?

The Wizard expresses the greatest bit of optimism about America that I’ve read in a long while, or perhaps I’m reading it where none exists:

“…. This is America. Therefore
Anything can happen. … …
Aside from which, the object is
Not to restore the poor stiff
From across the murky deeps of
Styx, which is ridiculous;
But a more pragmatic and wholly
American one: namely to bring
Him temporarily back from across
The shadowy waters of Lethe.”

The “Him” ain’t accidental, either.

What did Blackmange do that has caused such a great hatred in Santouche, you ask?

“Spit in my eye. Told me off
In front of people. Went and stooled
On me good.”

‘Stooled on me good…’ I hate it when that shit happens. Resurrecting a man is called The Con. On whom it is perpetuated is hard to discern. Another stiff joke on Santouche. The Wizard conjures the spirit of Blackmange, we find stuff out, and then The Wizard takes off. In parting he advertises his other services, which includes that “on a good day I can / Throw a close election.” I have a feeling we’ll see The Wizard’s work again.

In Scene 10 Santouche confronts Crow’s-Foot at his newly established Church of Christ Fornicator, which may be the best name for a church ever. The only problem for Crow’s-Foot is that he tries to sell Santouche his Isle of Mercy. My favorite line, by far, is :

“With the Lord doing it in your heart, you’re gonna
Have a big edge on the next man, my friend, and in this
Evil son of a bitch’s world, full of conniving wildcats,
You need every bit of edge you can get.”

A philosophy which Santouche entirely embraces, even though he fails to recognize it in someone else—a tragedy (Thank God) of the type. God knows when they all get together a swarm of locusts ensues.

But Crow’s-Foot is reformed. He no longer sees the “world as a vast, gray country/ Full of liars, cheats, scoundrels, fools who all looked/ Alike. Monsters even… a nightmare lit up only by / The fires of vengeance and hatred.”

As the scene rolls, Crow’s-Foot recognizes the dangerous rage and anger in Santouche and tries to make off—however, he takes out the wrong watch on which to check the time. Santouche notices and that’s all there is for Crow’s-Foot.

Scene 11 is filled with the rage of sexual betrayal in Santouche. It begins very nicely with the Chorus singing a disturbing lyrical ballad to Santouche, and bemoaning bad pop culture. Then we get on to the main course.

Santouche and Isle of Mercy have it out. She pays him off. Isle tries to give Santouche the money three times, with the anger, tension, and confusion rising between each attempt. It end with her throwing the money at Santouche and leaving him. What else can Santouche do but shoot her in the back? She asked for it. She has no respect. And the play wraps to the opening scene. But hark! What is that? A yes, an afterword. Sort of. The play ebbs out with the First and Second Child who were with Isle of Mercy four scenes earlier chanting: “You gonna kill everyone, mister?” at Santouche, who, because he can’t catch them (an presumably kill them) sits down and absorbs their taunts. The taunts that Wellman is throwing back at a certain portion of our “culture.”

Finn in the Underworld

September 16th, 2009 No comments

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming production at convergence-continuum. A few years ago I went over to see Act a Lady by Jordan Harrison which was an hilarious romp. So, this next piece by Harrison is to be anticipated, too. However, this one is not a funny romp. In fact, it is the exact opposite: dark, brooding, and sinister.

Finn in the Underworld at convergence-continuum

Finn in the Underworld at convergence-continuum

Clyde Simon, the artistic director for convergence, is pretty careful in laying out the season–placing comedic hits like Charles Mee’s Big Love right in the midst of summer to catch that breezy, sunny disposition that keeps us all optimistic, happy, and alive; but coming right back as the weather changes over to windy, overcast, and cooling to stoke our more fearful and depressed autumnal dispositions. Finn in the Underworld is the perfect direction, as Lucy Bredeson-Smith (who plays Gwen in the play) points out, for Halloween.

I recently sat down and interviewed the cast and director of the upcoming production, so I went to Playscripts and read much of the play that they have freely available online: Then, when I got to The Liminis, as I waited while they all ran tech, I finished up the play with the scripts that were laying about on the set. I was not disappointed.

It was initially a strange sensation, reading the play. I am used to finding books through Google Books, reading happily along, and then encountering pages missing from the middle of the book–Google’s meagre concession to copyright concerns. This extraction of pages leads to a choppy reading experience. So, as I read Finn in the Underworld I was suddenly greeted by jumps in the script that sent me looking for page numbers to make sure that pages weren’t missing…that Playscripts hadn’t done the same thing. They hadn’t. Harrison’s script plays with jumps in time and it caught me off guard.

The jumps in time are what most attracts me to the play. It is fascinating to see an encounter at 7:35 pm only to (later on) pick up the thread of what happened earlier at 2:00 in the afternoon. The jumping fills in the details on events in strange ways, creating connections that go different directions in time and create a curiously timeless, eerie feeling…as if one were, I don’t know, in Hades? I was very much reminded of Fefu and Her Friends by Fornes which creates a similar feeling through the four mobile scenes in the mid-section of the play. There is something strangely vibrant about seeing scenes out of order and then connecting pieces of information from one place back to another. Harrison’s play handles this very competently and it creates a spine-tingling experience.

Harrison has described his play as a ‘psychosexual gothic horror story,’ which is an apt description, as there are elements of all of this in the play. Gothic stories, especially stories with horror elements, remind me of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights–the mad woman in the attic or ghosts on the moors. But the elements are present here, too: a dark house, an unexplained death, a family mystery that spans generations, and, very like the tales by the Bronte sisters, a jagged-love that is doomed from the start. Appropriately, Harrison quotes Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House at the outset of his play: “An evil old house, the kind some people call “haunted”, is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored.”

For those of you who want a surprise, go and see this play! It will deliver. For those of you who want to see the play, but don’t mind having your surprise compromised, spoilers follow.

Warning: Spoiler Alert — What follows reveals plot, story, and will ruin your fun.

The quote from Hill House is more than just support for the Gothic horror feel of the piece. Other than the way Harrison plays with time and play structure, the one event that threw me the most was the revelation that Carver Bishop was already dead: thus putting the ghost element squarely at the center of the horror story. But, this is not nearly enough. Harrison, like Jackson, continues, with a house that is itself alive and that wishes to consume all of those within its walls, to keep the men and women forever, tucked inside of some unearthly plane of semi-existence.

This plane is where the second act of Harrison’s play occurs, and very like the Hades mentioned briefly above, the action that transpires is very Greek in its notion of the Underworld: very Greek because the river Lethe, which flows through Hades, erases the memories of the dead who drink from it. As with those poor dead folk in Hades, so it is with all the characters in the play who are consumed by the house–and as it no doubt is for those consumed by family grief or a tragic history–memory becomes questionable, personal history is drowned or left in a murky twilight, and logic begins to run in circles. For me, this last part of Harrison’s play is the most disturbing. It is oppressive, suffocating, and claustrophobic–and it is by no means an accident that it transpires within the confines of bomb shelter.

This play runs through October 17 at convergence and I can hardly wait to see it.

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