Sunday, August 18, 2013

"We Licked The Postage Stamps!"

Yesterday I saw Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the latest play of one of the greatest living playwrights, Christopher Durang, a master of comedy writing. Leaving the Golden Theatre on Broadway after 150 hilarious minutes I thought: That's what theatre is all about. The tragedies of life put on stage with so much irony that you can laugh about it. Durang takes characters and themes from Chekhov, puts them in a contemporary place, pours them into a blender and mixes them up. There's not much of a plot. Vanya and his stepsister Sonia have lived their entire lives in their family's farmhouse. While they stayed home to take care of their ailing parents, their sister Masha has been gallivanting around the world as a successful actress and movie star, leaving Vanya and Sonia to feel trapped and regretful. Their soothsayer/cleaning woman Cassandra keeps warning them about terrible things in the future, which include a sudden visit from Masha and her twenty-something boy toy Spike. The absolute highlight of the play is Vanya's rant about how the world changed over the last sixty years. "We used to lick postage stamps back then... We used typewriters back then. And Wite-Out for corrections. And carbon paper for copies. We had telephones and we had to dial a number by putting our fingers in a round hole representing two to zero... We didn't multitask. Doing one thing at a time seemed appropriate. There are 785 television channels. You can watch the news report that matches what you already think. In the 50s there were only three or four channels, and it was all black and white... We didn't have answering machines. You had to call people back... We played Scrabble and Monopoly. We didn't play video games...where we would kill policemen and prostitutes... When I was 13 I saw Goldfinger with Sean Connery as James Bond, and I didn't get the meaning of the character name "Pussy Galore". Went right over my head. Nowadays, three year olds get the joke. They can barely walk and know what Pussy Galore means... No more licking of postage stamps, no more typewriters or letters, no more shared national TV shows... There are no shared memories anymore. Now there's twitter and email and Facebook and cable and's all separate. And our lives are...disconnected." I watched the marvelous David Hyde Pierce deliver these lines in a stunning outburst of despair and fury. Yes, I laughed, but at the same time felt like crying.

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