Geeks Read Books: “Here We Go/ Escaped Alone: Two Plays” by Caryl Churchill

 

Here We Go/ Escaped Alone: Two Plays
Caryl Churchill
Theatre Communications Group (TCG)
New York, 2016
$14.95

Review by Kitty Drexel

(New York, NY meets Somerville, MA) As made evident by the title, Here We Go/ Escaped Alone contains two new plays by Caryl Churchill. They are as strange, and pleasantly unsettling as her other works. Churchill takes every opportunity to push buttons, and redefine theatre. Fans will be delighted by these two new scripts.

Here We Go calls for careful casting and staging. This play requires between three and eight actors.  Stage directions are purposefully excluded from the script. Here We Go is set in three parts.

Part 1 “Here We Go,” is an elegy for an unseen character that we don’t meet until Part 2. The “dialogue” between characters is loosely structured in poetic, one-line stanzas. It is up to the director, and/or the cast to allocate lines. “After,” is a monologue set in one to four stanza-ed reflections on one character’s descent to the afterlife. “Getting There” is unspoken with no spoken lines. It’s a commentary on life’s repeated, futile behaviors.

Churchill presents funerals, the afterlife and how we get there in this abstract, highly symbolic one-act play. It asks its audience to publicly confront the questions we ask of ourselves in private: Is there an afterlife? Will I be remembered? Are any of our small repetitive actions worth the monotony?  Here We Go is composed such that perhaps the cast and crew aren’t supposed to answer them either.

Done well, this production can be driven, and chilling. If performed by a less organized cast, it has the potential to spiral into a hot mess. It’s the difference between breaking new ground, and giving civilians more opportunity to make fun of artists for being “weird.”

In the second play, Escaped Alone, the apocalypse has come, and it’s the best reality tv available. Characters Sally, Vi, Lena and Mrs. Jarrett are in their 70’s. They chatter the obtuse  mutterings of women with nothing left to discuss. Their dystopian science fiction reality closely resembles the world we know now.

Unlike Here We Go, Escaped Alone does have distinct characters, a location, and environment. Churchill provides lines in broken sentences.  The dialogue seeks to establish characters and relationships. Our heroes listen to respond, not to hear. Character interactions have great potential for comedy. It’s as if Churchill were imagining the end of the world. Despite the impending doom, social behaviors don’t evolve one bit.

America is mentioned repeatedly. Fun is poked at our proclivity to misunderstand political movements, and our lazy approach to facts. She calls us fascists. She’s not entirely incorrect.

This two play compilation contains the usual information on original casts, and other original performance specifics. A props list, sound cues, etc are not included. Churchill truly leaves it up to creators to figure it out on their own. The book concludes with a playwright’s biography.     

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