Density Hourglasses

Density Hourglasses

The sand in both of these hour-glasses is the same, but the liquids are different. One liquid is more dense than the sand, so it sinks and lifts the sand up. The other liquid is less dense than the sand, so it rises and pushes the sand down.

Last year, the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis launched a new initiative with commissions of nationally recognized playwrights, culminating in three public readings. Called Ignite! this theater festival returned last Saturday, with the first of three reading, Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976, by Rebecca Gilman. The following is the Rep’s synopsis of the play:

When the main employer in Monroe, Wisconsin is bought out, a whole town learns what it means to have their livelihood, identity and destiny taken from them. The Duerst family is experiencing these tensions first hand, along with a few others of their own. The author of Spinning into Butter and many others, Rebecca Gilman is one of the most highly regarded playwrights in the US today. This play is a Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis commission.

Last year, we attended two out of the three readings. While not full plays, the readings are performed by real actors. The one that we missed, because it was performed during a work day, was selected for eventual production. We learned last year that a play’s production process runs about five years. These readings are just a very public step in this process. They are a bit wonky and likely not for everyone, but since we have been watching most of the Rep’s productions for decades, they are just our glass of tea.

The Rep seems to have learned some too from last year’s initial festival. This year’s festival boasts a stage and all readings occur outside of regular business hours. At $8.30 a seat, you can’t beat the price. Throw in wine and cheese after the reading and the deal is all the sweeter. The house is only a couple of hundred seats, three at the most. This festival has got to be a loss leader for the Rep. This reading employed for a week, half-a-dozen actors, most from NYC. The supposed return on investment, the fifteen minute Q&A that follows each reading, upon this third for me repetition, seemed more kabuki than substantive. I am grateful to the Rep for this festival, but puzzled over its motivation. 

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

I didn’t get it. Maybe I’m just dense, but I didn’t get the ending. Kat (Nancy Bell), wife and mother seemed the focus of this play. She is in almost every scene and every other character has a straight-line connection to her, but at the climax she has already left the play. We are left with no clear understanding of her feelings about Kim’s (Dan McCarthy), her husband, life altering decision.

From where after two turns of the glass did Kim summon the courage of his convictions? That came completely out of left-field for me. Throughout the play, he had pragmatically towed the party line, seeing the logic of even the company’s harshest moves. He chose to rise above, while others around him fell, until he didn’t. What cathartic moment changed his mind? I missed it.

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