The older fellow sitting next to me in the theater tonight did not enjoy the play as much as I did. In fact, he seemed determined to make sure that everyone knew he didnít think much of it. At intermission, he turned to me and asked me to poke him in the ribs if he started snoring. I assured him that Iíd be happy to do just that. Itís just too bad I left my stun gun at home.
I donít know if I heard him laughing or not, but his wife definitely laughed out loud with the rest of the audience. She also shushed him more than once during the performance. Some people should probably stay home and watch something easy to understand, like bowling or Fear Factor or C-SPAN.
On our way out afterward, I heard someone ask a friend, ďDid you get it?Ē That had me shaking my head, because although it was an unfamiliar play and it took a scene or two to realize what was going on, it was a straightforward story of a woman with a peculiar view of the world, a view thatís realized on stage. There wasnít anything to figure out, especially if you stayed until the end.
The play was ďWoman in Mind,Ē by Alan Ayckbourn, and it was presented on the SRJC campus tonight by Summer Repertory Theatre. Susan, the central character, has difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality, and in the beginning, so do we. She seems to have two families, and it takes a while before you realize that one of them is her dreary reality and the other is the way she wishes her life had gone.
During the course of the play, she is on the verge of figuring things out and setting herself straight, but real life is always a little too real for her to handle. And the audience is pulling for her, hoping against hope that her fantasy family can somehow become real, until we realize that that kind of thinking makes us as mad as she is.
But itís easy to see, from the portrayals of her ďrealĒ family, why she wants to escape from them. Itís the easy way out, but itís what we do when we wish someone ďsweet dreams.Ē Itís what happens when we lose ourselves in the world of Harry Potter or Willy Wonka or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The difference is that we can reel ourselves back in. (Well, unless weíre Tom Cruise, in which case the voices apparently are real.)