A Singularity of Being

Εγκαινιαζω σημερα τη διγλωσσια στο ιστολοι, με μια θεατρικη κριτικη, που αναδημοσιευω και εδω απο το αλλο μου, το καινουριο, αγγλωφονο ιστολοι, το black cat * red cat (reloaded).

I really don’t like to criticize something that well-intentioned people have worked hard to do. Seriously, I don’t. Plus, I’m not anywhere near to being well-versed in the Theatrical arts, so it’s definitely somewhat audacious of me to say that I found “A Singularity of Being” to be a bit, well, pedestrian.

I have no quarrel at all with the acting or the art direction, which I think were very good actually. The lead actor, Clinton Walker put out a wonderful performance for a demanding role, and the rest of the cast was also very good (I very much enjoyed John Blackwod’s performance as the priest). The art direction was also very nice, although, Robert tells me it’s not anything too original. There were some points when I especially enjoyed it, most notably the way a sex scene was summarized by an elegant tangling and untangling of the performing actors. Overall, the play was carried out skillfully and effectively.

No, my problem is with the story of the play. To those that have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s the story of a physicist who sets out to create the Supertheory of Supereverything. His journey is a rather predictable series of scenes. He is an antisocial geek who denounces God in the name of science. He confronts an imposing mother who tries to blackmail him with the image of a sanctified dead Father. He meets a girl who is seduced by the way he talks about science and who marries him despite his mother’s warnings that her son is an encephalic monster. He then develops a paralytic disease and while at first he overcomes it, to try to live a healthy life with his wife, even to the point of happily accepting her pregnancy, he eventually allows it to turn him into a brain without feelings. As his body deteriorates, while his family struggles to help him he becomes increasingly alienated from them, instead focusing increasingly in the science. Near the climactic end, he even turns away his faithful wife, pushing her towards having sex with his best friend. And somehow, this all resolves when he gets (presumably) the Nobel prize where he says that his wife helped him understand that more important than understanding the universe, is learning to live in it.

Now there are quite a few lacking points in the story. One of the most interesting aspects of the character, the tension between himself, his bossy mother and the spectre of his father were almost not explored at all. What about the tension between a father who (presumably) died in service of country and humanity and the son’s ambition to pursue his own selfish curiosity? And what about how all this is mediated through the commanding figure of the mother?

Another one of my objections regarded the tired dialectic between science and faith. Maybe it is my own distaste for this kind of crude argumentations, but the whole debate seemed to me to take place in an entirely naive framework, especially the priest’s pro-faith arguments in the start of the play. On the whole, the protagonist seems to be engaged in a struggle with God, but the nature of the struggle is very naive and at times even self-contradictory. Not to mention the banal theme of the protagonist being alienated and dehumanized as he moves away from God, only to find him again at the end, along with his humanity.

Moreover, I disliked the stereotyping of the scientist figure. It looks as if we moved from the scruffy, pointy hair scientist stereotype echoing Einstein to the disabled scientist stereotype echoing Stephen Hawking. Yes, there is an interesting plot device of the protagonist retreating inside his head while his body fails him, but other than the echoes of Hawking, I think that the disease does not serve any substantial role. The entire drama could have been recast mostly intact without it and it would avoid the easy stereotyping.

The ending, I found to be rather anticlimactic and overly sentimental. The protagonist’s sudden enlightenment seems to appear out of nowhere. What was it that “re-humanized” him? There was nothing to hint that there could be a turning back from his regression inside his head. He does hold a dialog with the priest about it inside his head and it could be argued that the loss of his wife turned him on his head, but if that is the case, then there is a lot of drama and very strong emotions missing from what was shown.

I also found his moralizing at the end to be very, how to put it, easy. There is no passion in his sentimentalism, no big dramatic catharsis. I think it would be much more striking and shocking, if despite all his handicaps and despite all his crimes, the protagonist remained faithful to himself and the life he chose. Instead of some (pardon me putting it that way) cheap sentimentalism, it would be much much more grandiose and dramatic of him to rise up and affirm his existential monstrosity, shouting something like “Yes! I worshipped my science, that is the difficult leap into the void I chose for myself, and I’m glad I followed to the end despite my pathetic illness!”

Anyway, I don’t know if I am being too harsh on the playwright, but what the hell, this is the first play I’ve seen in English, the first play I watch in Canada and, well, the first play I’ve been to for a long time (it must have been something like two years since the last one!). And again, I am not any kind of theatrical savant, so do take my criticism with a grain of salt.

A Singularity of Being

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