Three Views Cubed

by Natalie Mann

Guest Writer

pLAywriting in the city

The play’s title fits: Three Views of the Same Object.  The number three is powerful – representing past, present, future or body, mind, spirit; even birth, life, death. Love and death are themes throughout the play that incite the question: What does it mean to live, age and die with dignity? There is no singular, idealized answer. Under the direction of John Perrin Flynn, Brett Aune and Hollace Starr, Henry Murray’s piece multiplies love, dilemma, and death to the power of three.  Three versions of the play’s married protagonists, Jesse and Poppy, intertwine to explore the philosophical and pragmatic questions that arise in the process of aging.

Catherine Carlen (as Mrs. Widkin) and Nancy Linehan Charles (as Jesse 3). Photo by John Flynn

Sitting in the Rogue Machine Theatre, one feels like a fly on the wall watching the unraveling of a cubist text. Through Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s vision, the stage design feels familiar with its modernist, Eames-esque allure. This could be the home of a friend, aunt or parent who never gave into shiny, new materialism beyond the mid-century mark. The opening scene between Anne Gee Byrd’s Jesse 1 and Allan Miller’s Poppy 1 seems ordinary. She sleeps on the couch. He reads on his chair. Jesse awakens. And, the conversation that bends toward familiarity teems with piquant wit. This is the point. This could be anyone. Anywhere. Replace Poppy’s book with Soduko.

There is nothing uncommon about the topics that Murray tackles. When K Callan’s Jesse 2 addresses her incontinence, Shelly Kurtz’s Poppy 2 responds: I like my women wet.  Through use of dialogue and fresh perspective, Murray challenges how American culture views growing older as a secretive, shameful process. Aging is not a sickness. Not addressing it is. Revealing the unspeakable is a step toward questioning how our culture views mores surrounding one’s individual right to die with dignity when the body begins to fail. At one point Nancy Linehan Charles’ Jesse 3 laments, “What a blessing Alzheimer’s would be.” This illustrates the thrust of the play. In a very Foucauldian sense, her cry questions the construction of normalizations. For whom is Alzheimer’s a burden? The absent daughter alluded to in the play?

Shelly Kurtz (as Poppy 2) and K Callan (as Jesse 2). Photo by John Flynn

In his Los Angeles Times review of Three Views, David C. Nichols expresses a yearning for “[t]he unseen daughter” to be “clarifi[ed].” However, this would detract from the aesthetic of Murray’s work as a “cubist” piece that poses multitudes of questions. The beauty of Three Views is that it pulls the audience in, while keeping the viewer at a distance. Yes, the viewer – young and old – can relate on different levels to the personal, societal and philosophical issues that play engenders. However, the vacancy of certain specifies prevents the viewer from establishing false authority over the discourse of the characters’ lives. There is only so much the audience, as other, can know.

THREE VIEWS OF THE SAME OBJECT runs Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm through October 28t, 2012. Rogue Machine Theater is located at 5041 Pico Blvd. LA, CA 90019. Tickets are $30. Reservations: (855) 585 – 5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com

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