So about the Mabou Mines’ “Dollhouse”….
Writing this feels almost like trying to recall a dream, something that slips away faster the more I try to put it into words. I’m not sure what happened the other night in that production. I don’t even think I walked away knowing the plot line (having never read the play) but what happened in the performance was so symbolically explosive, so charged with deep, dark energy, so ludicrous and so mind boggling, so specific and so expertly choreographed that I found myself sitting with my mouth agape for most of the performance. The strange thing is that this isn’t a type of theatrical experience that I would have considered myself drawn to let alone blown away by. I tend to have this die hard notion of theatre as being for the people! Telling them a story that will alter and affect them (in a verbal way is my assumption). But this! This play! The most moving images and stirring scenarios in the play for me were the ones that took place in silence, usually involving 15 foot tall nurses loping along in skull masks. THE POWER OF THE THEATRE! DAMN! It is not the mere written word, or the spoken word, it’s a bank of puppets 60 foot by 50 foot bank of puppets raising their arms simultaneously. The power of the theatre to move and affect people is in the slow unraveling of a piece of red velvet cloth, in the removing of a wig in the small fragment of red paper that falls, unexpectedly from the somewhere up in the rafters, it was in these moments that the audience gasped and sighed. I’d forgotten that this world that I’m setting off into is not merely about the power of words, it truly is about the power of action. The words may motivate action but the action is where the audience becomes viscerally involved instead of merely intellectually involved. This is too much for some people, some don’t wish to be viscerally engaged, it costs the audience something, there were people who left “Dollhouse” after intermission, but as for me I think the whole mass catharsis thing the Greeks had worked out is where the good stuff is. If the theatre is becoming merely an intellectual experience then it is dead, is is something that can be written and read, something that doesn’t need to be experienced. Mobou Mines and “Dollhouse” made me realize that we’re not dead, that our only hope for this art form to live on is if we provide people with something that they can’t read, can’t merely observe, consider or think about but something that they have to experience fully. We memorize through books but we learn through experience, learn who we are, learn about the world, this is what the theatre should give people, this is what it can give people.