Monday, December 06, 2010

Boojum and War Plays

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I had two rare experiences, one was going to a play in which neither Kate nor one of our Theater friends was in and second seeing to plays in one weekend.
As a gift from a friend we saw War Plays on Friday night, and our friend Kevin Grubb is in Boojum at the DCA Theater, and runs through Dec 19th.

War Plays, was an engrossing experience and very moving. Through a number of devices, including a pre-show where the actors all were with the audience in character and all that seamlessly wove into the show proper in the theater. We were immersed in 1940's war torn London. Mortality, love and fear were strong themes, as we watched characters put on a show for us in the midst of a bombing raid. The spell was briefly broken shortly after we settled into our seats and the show proper began as a show being done in London, even the request to turn off cell phones was said in terms of 1940's (turn off all radio receiving devices), it was for a time unclear what actions on stage were being done as the characters putting on the plays or the beginning of the plays themselves. This became clear later but it did break for me the immersive experience as I had to orient myself and experience a confusion that was as a participant in the show and not as the 1940's London Audience. Also, upon reflection I feel some of what could have been explored in such a play wasn't as the stories were all somewhat traditional romantic love stories set in war time. However, the play was deeply affecting and impacting, and I do feel I had a glimpse into some of the feelings, and experienced them myself in a limited way, what it might have been like to live in London at such a time. I came away from the show with a mix somberness and overwhelming awe at the persistence of life, love and beauty even int he midst of death horror and ugliness.

Boojum was a very different experience, and in all ways different, yet with overlaping themes of mortality and persistence of beauty and life in the midst of difficulty. Lewis Carol, or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, is a difficult person to get ahold of. His works are nonsense and yet deeply connected to logic and explorations of meaning and language. Boojum weaves into this the place of music into these, not only exploring a particular work of Lewis Carol's (The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight fits) but his enterprise and the life the the Anglican deacon and Oxford don who wrote under the name of Lewis carol.

The musical begins light hearted reveling in the nonsense and play of the language as the hunt for the snark is playfully and delightfully presented along with the introduction of the hunters. While this remains all playful and one is tempted to take lightly this silly hunt for that which is mysterious in its probably non0-existence, something entirely made up, a nonsense word. Yet, even here there is an undertone of danger, of utmost seriousness, of something that is about a struggle, one that is at the core of existence. The mood of the show flips entirely as the musical continues in the second act as the silliness and playfulness turns deadly serious, while remaining playful and delightful. The playfulness is subdued by a growing sense that there is a very real danger and facing torments, questions of faith and sexuality, and fears of annihilation.

The score and book seem to me to be very nearly flawless, the performance was amazing, and impressive in its physical demaondingness for all performers. The use of costume was impressive especially in the robing and disrobing of the charicters, event o the point of the characters towards the end putting on items of clothing having belonged to other characters. The set design was restrained but extreemly effective and elegant and beautiful in its simplicity.