Thursday, April 29, 2010

Comedy of Manners : Real Life

I find acting so addictive because on stage I get to behave and speak more truthfully and without the neurotic self-division that 'real' life requires.  Real life absolutely requires that one pay attention to one's own amour propre to survive.  Real life, compared to the stage, is kabuki theatre, in which daily rituals--hand shakes, "good morning-s," "I love you-s,"--are required to establish a safe social context that we then must take care not to disrupt--"what's so good about it," "who are you, again?"--by too much self-revelation.  Theatre people will understand this better than most, since we're continually engaged in backstage, professional relationships that require gentle dissembling, e.g. "the play was a bit rough, but YOU were wonderful, Darling," a world of air kisses in which air kisses are essential to harmony, not mere affectation.  But everyone understands this, except perhaps those who are so invested in trying to save some aspect of their world--a marriage, a career, a life threatened by a new diagnosis of cancer--that they cling to denial like a rat to a waterlogged board.  Real life is far more like the royal court of Elizabethan England--full of whispered intrigues--than we commonly acknowledge (I hear these intrigues all the time as I walk to and from the theatre through Philadelphia, as people on corners take smoke breaks and talk to friends on their cellphones about their boyfriends or girlfriends, amazingly, the same conversation, on every other corner, day in and day out.)  Real life is a (very serious) comedy of manners, which may only be revealed as such on stage, in a comedy of manners, where laughter becomes the carrier wave that makes the truth audible.

Life on stage dispenses with the spider's web of white lies across which we gingerly move each day.  On stage, we cut to the chase, straight to the dream-stuff of murder, incest, disease, mortality, sex, intellectual obsession and creative passion that, of course, undergirds every day of our real life, but that we must attenuate and lose sight of in real life's daily rituals and unavoidable compromises.  My newfound appreciation for Noel Coward is immense.

No comments: