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Conundrum— that’s quite a mouthful! Merriam-Webster defines it as, “a seemingly unanswerable question,” while the OED adds, “a paradoxical, insoluble and enigmatic problem.” Our Narrator will soon tell you, “Our subject tonight…is love.” What better word then, to describe our topic? Not only does it describe the dilemma of defining the indescribable magic of “love,” but it captures perfectly the more perplexing
dilemma of our story, which deals with finding the balance between our expectations of love while remaining open to the unexpected.
Although love takes many forms, we’ll be focusing predominantly on romantic love. Aaron Posner, the playwright, has cleverly crafted his play, interweaving three short stories by Kurt Vonnegut, which explore different stages of love, starting with the first blush of love, followed by its breathless lusty aspects and ending with the mature love of a long-term marriage. Vonnegut wrote, “I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand, and the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep…and there are no words for that.” Since this subject has intrigued philosophers, writers, artists, poets, musicians, and all of us ordinary humans from the beginning of time—why does it continue to hold our fascination?
Perhaps the first part of Mr. Posner’s title might shed some light—“Who Am I This Time?” What shapes our identity? Is it shaped by the people we love and who love us? Is it further determined by how we love as well as how we are loved? Does love improve our quality of life? Is it worth it with all the potential heartaches? Do we learn who we are through love? And vice versa?
Isn’t it every person’s dream to find that one individual who intuitively “gets us” without our ever having to explain ourselves? Who understands our innermost selves? We never have to tell them what we want for Christmas or our birthday, because they “instinctively” already know? How does romance
color our experience of love? What makes something romantic? What are our expectations about love and relationships? Where do these expectations
come from? Society? Books? Family? Movies? And once ignited, how do we keep the flame of love alive?
“Who Am I This Time?” implies that it is the other person who holds our identity. In relationships, an individual’s identity is fused with the lover’s, creating a new and unique identity. As Shakespeare wrote, “So they loved as love in twain, Had the essence but in one; Two distinct, divisions none…” We are who we love. But Vonnegut also warns us, “that we are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be.” If “conundrum” encapsulates the indescribable nature of love, then theatre is the perfect vehicle to manifest the complexities of this emotion. Through the fusion of the real (truth) and the imagination (the mask), the deepest levels of our being are revealed. The ultimate conundrum of human existence is that we set ourselves the impossible task of seeking someone who deeply understands us, even though we are constantly changing (as are they), and therefore can never fully understand ourselves…And so it goes…the endless paradox/conundrum of love and life. So as you sit in the dark watching our story unfold, perhaps you’ll find yourself smiling remembering your own first taste of love or wiping a tear reflecting on a lost love. But as the curtain falls, one thing we can be assured of—love is always unpredictable…Ain’t love grand?