To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Erin Search-Wells from SuperGroup shares her perspective on Thursday night’s Out There performance of Looking for a Missing Employee by Rabih Mroué. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
Ah yes! A crime! A play! This looks like a job for me! Not only did I wikipedia Lebanon, I even considered renting Waltz with Bashir before I saw this play. Not to mention my experience with Forensic Anthropology (Bones) and Criminal Law (Special Victims Unit, Damages); these things combined I have decided I can help Mr. Rabih Mroué solve the case of the missing employee. There is even somebody taking notes for me! I am lucky. I’m merely four seats away from the performer who is telling the story, and yet I feel like I am also watching a YouTube video from far far away. In between myself and the live performer sit a few incredulous folks. One says, “Am I going to like this? Its been a long time since I’ve seen a play.” Halfway through, after hearing them leave several times, I hear the same doubtful voice behind me say, “I don’t get it. So there’s some money missing. And?” At another point, as Rabih Mroué promises to break into song: “Oh, you have got to be kidding.”
Let me be clear. These voices were not my inner voice. They were the people sitting behind me. And that, as they say, is the Magic of Theater. We have to sit in a live room with a bunch of squirming misfits who have a lot of opinions and want to be smart, and also hate smart people at the same time. We want to be smarter than other people and also, simultaneously, harbor distaste for faux intellectuals. I think it feels good to watch other people fidgeting, not knowing where to look, wondering if they should keep clapping, wondering where the performer(s) is/are. But now I have to ask myself a harder, tougher question that gets at the meat of this show. What does this form of messy co-existence have to do with solving a mystery? In this casual blog post, I will attempt to say “EVERYTHING.”
First of all, I’m trying not to give away too many details of the crime because some of you haven’t seen the show yet. How am I doing? It is pretty tough to share only a few things, winnowing out some of the things that were shared by someone who had to winnow out some things for a show, pulled together from highly unreliable news sources. Mr. Mroué is extremely successful at withholding information and I like it. (I was reminded of Kafka immediately and then told to stop thinking of Kafka.) I like when he leaves us with a mysterious musical interlude. I like it when he refuses to show us articles for purposes of privacy, decency, bad photocopying, and simply time.
At first I think if I can figure something out: what really happened, the steps of the cover-up, who spent the money, then I will feel satisfaction. But burying ourselves in a story, even if it is “solved” or if we “get it” will only lead us to an ending. And then what do we have? I realized pretty quickly that “Detective Stabler” wouldn’t be predictably losing his cool, “Olivia Benson” wouldn’t be walking in on a victim taking revenge into her own hands, and “Dr. Temperance Brennan’s” heart wouldn’t be melting bit by bit.
Let me say something about boredom. I insist that the experience of boredom is an indicator that something else is going on inside. Let boredom exist without being impatient with it. It’s really just a door to the next experience.
Here on this blog I am supposed to share my reaction, but I can’t deny how other peoples opinions affect me. My judgments are ever-changing. So when somebody I talked to after the show said, “I didn’t care about the story,” I thought, “What story? The story for me, was a lot bigger than what happened to a man and his wife and the prime minister and some stamp forgers. It was the story of people (us) who deserve our organizations to be better. We are the main character. And yes, we can have empathy for our collective selves. Truth is not a guarantee. It’s not a right. Anything can be published. There’s no justice.”
At the beginning of Searching for a Missing Employee, we receive a message, loosely rephrased, in my memory: “I am not interested in finding the guilty and the innocent.” At the end the artist makes the statement again, only at the end he speaks it in his own language. Even though it had been written in English at the beginning of the show, a deep voice from the audience called out, at the end of the show, “Translation?” So for me, and everybody else in the theater, that was the last line we heard of the play. The last word was spoken by an audience member who hadn’t put two and two together. I liked the night because it reminded me that we are people and people made these institutions, these organizations. We deserve better but blaming is futile. As Mr. Mroué is doing, we can ask questions about the institutions that are meant to support and serve the people. But we all made/accepted/live with/those institutions of state, treasury, law, police, press, etc.. Sound serious? Thanks to Mroué’s innocent presence, I also found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.
Me and the other members of SuperGroup have been talking about how to spark dialogue about Out There. I think we (audience, performance community, etc.) all need to practice saying what we like and don’t like with respect and careful thought, and not be afraid to disagree and/or learn something new. How do we spark debate? I’ve decided its by saying decidedly that we liked or didn’t like something. So here goes. Overall, I liked Looking for a Missing Employee. A lot. Let the dogs come.