The Disquiet Comfort

Photo by Maria Baranova

Photo by Maria Baranova

The last thing you want to do on a hot and vaporously fetid August day, after walking long distances, is to arrive at your destination only to be told, kindly, to take your shoes off, put on the provided clean socks, and jump into bed with about twenty others.

If it sounds nightmarish, it’s because it is. For a timid theatregoer, this request succeeds at nudging at the senses by holding its recipients in abeyance, pending further discovery and/or instruction.

Immediately, a sense of discomfort percolates from within. The unknown tends to trigger ancient instincts of survival: should I fight this or should I run (with it)? I quickly remember I’m in a theatre, and what could possibly go wrong and I replace the anxiety with the excitement also inherent in the unknown. And right there, from that place that I used to think love came from, right under the belly button, I feel it: the disquiet of anticipation.  

And I think, “Oh. I get it.”

And the play hasn’t even started. And I probably didn’t get it. Or ever will, for that matter. But. It’s not about that…

I turn the corner to discover the vessel that will make for our collective experience for the next fifty minutes. It’s a giant bed. And everyone is on it.

All of the sudden I feel, in a room made up of bed and walls, that I have shrunken in size, and that now I am to experience the play as a miniature version of me. I’m cool with that. And I realize that being small means, naturally, that all the rest will be augmented to match my shift-in-size perspective.

After about two minutes of finding the right spot (and there is no ‘right’ spot for this, it’s just what feels right for me—the bottom left corner of the bed) I discover Lelie Goldoni propped up at the head of the bed, also looking like a miniature in a sea of comfort.  

Do you remember hearing that one professor or director or actor say that, “So and so actor is SO interesting, I’d pay full price to watch them read the phone book”? That is Lelie Goldoni. Her silence is larger than any soliloquy penned by the masters of word. Her presence is ached and real and confusing and intriguing. Perhaps that is why, when she is finally given a chance to speak, her words fail to support the weight of her epic silence up to that point.

And then Julian Rozzell, Jr speaks. And then Rozzell, Jr moves. And then Rozzell, Jr begins the subtle war declared against our reason and our rationale. And we begin, and we move, and we end.

Alec Duffy recreates a theatrical experience that attempts to unleash the subconscious by overloading the conscious. Quiet, Comfort results in an experience that utilizes placement (on a bed), surrounding circumstance (a room), and sensory-stimulating musical and lighting effects to break down that part of our ‘engagement brain’ obsessed with structure and with story—a part that is swollen with overuse in the instant gratification culture. It reminds us to be, it reminds us to experience, in community, in communion, in mystery and wonder, even if just for a little while. Hoi Polloi, honoring their name, plays to the masses; it plays to the common people.  We all react to sound. We all react to lights. We all react to empathic stimuli and to proximity of others’ bodies to our own. We the common people, listen to stories so that we the common people can connect to other common people. In this case that common story revolved around travel, hotel rooms, loneliness, sleeplessness and the restless obsession with thinking about that.

Closing my eyes and listening the text was brutal. It was reminiscent of listening to someone read from a personal journal at an open-mic night. I stopped closing my eyes. That is what the play was demanding of me in the first place.  The company I was with, ever generous, was determined to inject the experience with a sense of understanding—they needed the comfort, and the quiet, of a story and of a character. I, on the other hand, was left comfortably standing on the gelatinous experience of Artaud-like rejection to rational interpretation. The repertoire of gestures and the sensory artifacts along with the ever-present magnanimous entity that is Lelia Goldoni collectively reinforced the idea that by enlarging the theatrical vocabulary, the text was intentionally left to the irrelevant. And perhaps that is why I left feeling fulfilled. I jumped out of bed, like stepping out post-dream, post-nap, or post-sex, thinking of nothing but of where I’ve just been. I took off my socks and stepped back into my everyday shoes, and remembered the vapors of the putrid city awaiting me outside.  And what mattered is that for a number of shared moments, for an immersive hour and change, the movement, the sound and the circumstance of nonsense numbed my rational brain and lulled me into the quiet stillness of that boat left rocking after sailing through collective experience. And there is comfort in that.

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