The vehicle parked onstage is more than an inconvenience. Not only is the car parked on DOUG’s lawn—which is a beautifully manicured patch of green that was grown during the rehearsal process—and is almost directly in front of the door to his house, but this four-door sedan is idling with the keys locked inside.
What’s particularly unpleasant about the situation is that we’re indoors. Sure, it’s summer, so having opened the windows of the theater building does not let in cold air, but regardless, there are no fans, and exhaust still hangs thick in the air.
There is a discussion in progress between the four others in the show—SOPHIE, MAG, ANTON, and COURTNEY—and it’s unclear whether they speak to one another as their characters or the actors themselves, especially with their speech being at a volume just under that of the car’s engine.
When a bird chirps—which apparently had been a cue—DOUG pushes open the front door, which hits against the side of the sedan’s trunk. DOUG does not have enough space to exit the house and enter onto the stage, so we see only the briefest attempt of his shoulder to push through before retracting and again shutting the front door. It seems that DOUG didn’t know about the idling car, and it’s only now that we realize there is a sound effect of an idling car playing through the speakers in the theater (thereby strangely doubling the sound) along with the general “morning_in_small_town” ambiance we hear (an effect made slightly uncomfortable especially with the windows open to the town in which this matinee is under way).
The sound of the bird chirp had stopped the conversation of the four actors onstage who knew it to be the cue for DOUG’s entrance. Their eyes all went to the front door, across the stage, and when the door opened there was a noticeable twitch in at least two of them as if they might go to stop him. None did. Their conversation resumes.
When an actual bird flies in through one of the open windows and perches on the back of an empty seat in the audience, it lets out two chirps, pauses, then three.
Taking this as a passive aggressive insistence from the stage manager and sound board operator to get him onstage and begin his opening monologue, DOUG, after a beat, finally enters from stage-left, bypassing the obstructed door.
Walking directly to the driver’s side of the car, DOUG pauses briefly and then tries the door handle (and after all, maybe no one actually had tried this yet). It, of course, is still locked as is the rear door. He ridiculously tries it again a few more times, with more force and frustration, before exhaling, lowering his shoulders, and walking off.
That’s not the end—this is a two-and-a-half hour show—but it kind of doesn’t matter. This play was originally commissioned by a performing arts organization which tends to focus their support on works which address environmental issues. Specifically, this one was meant to be a production concerned with carbon emissions and family values. Or misguided family competition over carbon copy valuables. Or family acquisitions of valuable carbon. Or carbon dating of prehistoric family conditions. Or dating conditions in a time when family is undervalued.
You ever see the 1997 sci-fi movie Cube? It’s about this massive construction made up of a kind of labyrinth of cube-shaped rooms in which a randomly selected group of mostly unconnected people awaken and then have to try to find their way out through deadly hidden traps and dead-ends and so forth. At some point one of the characters, who it turns out helped build the thing (although he was just one of maybe thousands of people who worked on small parts of the bloated, undirected project, never knowing or needing to know what they were actually working for or toward), he says, it’s this giant “accident; a forgotten, perpetual public works project [about which nobody involved] wants to ask questions. All they want is a clear conscience and a fat paycheck.” Another character—also a part of this motley ensemble of unwitting and more-or-less innocent captives attempting escape—asks him (in reference to the colossal cubical prison) “Why put people in it?” to which he replies, “Because it’s here. You have to use it, or you admit it’s pointless. This may be hard for you to understand, but there is no conspiracy. Nobody is in charge. It’s a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan.”
I really do like that movie, and I don’t know why none of my friends are into it.
[BACK TO WRITINGS]