I went to see a solid piece of theatre last night. It was a Chamber Theatre Hintonburg production of Arthur Miller’s, A View From The Bridge. I’m not going to offer a comprehensive review but I can say happily for twenty bones it is a show well worth seeing. Plus, you get to have a beer or four while watching it because it is staged in the historic Elmdale House Tavern. Beer and solid theatre. Heaven.
As an aside, it was pretty neat for me to see a play in this tavern in particular because I grew up in the neighborhood and, as a kid, I remember being a little afraid to walk past the place. I feel a little silly about that now because — being older and wiser — I am sure it was filled with mostly harmless old working class alcoholics. At any rate, the place has been re-done (as one person said, it no longer smells like urine) but none of the historic charm is gone. The pickled eggs are good and there is organic beer on tap. Good site, good production, worth seeing.
Anyway, what I want to ask / talk about emerges from watching the play and watching the sold-out audience watching the play (nudge, nudge, book ahead).
The play is essentially a working man’s tragedy and two of the forces (among many) driving the tragedy is 1) a man’s sexual – romantic attachment to his step-daughter (his wife’s sister’s daughter technically, but he raised her as his daughter) 2) and his (most likely) unexpressed homosexual desires.
Now, there is a couple of points in the play where these themes (for a lack of a better word) come to the foreground. The first time it happens there was considerable tittering in the audience and I assumed that they were tittering because these themes are — to my mind — fairly well-worn and uncontroversial and have been explored many times before and are, for me, almost laughable. Sure, sure we all know that working class dudes might have latent unexpressed homosexual desires and sure, sure any male non-blood relative who inadvertently raises a hottie girl might think impure thoughts on occasion. Because the script and the production more or less handled these themes skillfully and with sincerity, I assumed the audience was laughing because that which was once shocking becomes almost laughable when confronted seriously at a time when it is no longer shocking.
Then, the tittering continued and I reconsidered. It occurred to me the audience may have actually been genuinely made uncomfortable by these themes and I now believe the laughter emerged not from a moment of recognition of an old cliche but from a moment of genuinely uncomfortable shock.
So what do you think, generally? Are these themes uncontroversial or do you think they remain shocking for most audiences? Are audiences still made uncomfortable by the idea of unexpressed homosexual desires? Are they still made uncomfortable by the thought of a father figure developing sexual attachments to his daughter? Are they still uncomfortable by the idea that a man might have unexpressed sexual desires for both a young man AND a young girl?
On further reflection, it occurred to me the psycho-sexual themes of the play may even be more relevant today. As teenagers become increasingly sexualized, it seems much more plausible that fathers will be struggling with these kinds of attachments. Mothers too presumably. Moreover, it seems equally plausible that a father may develop these sexual – romantic attachments to their sons as well. To my knowledge, I don’t know of any play or movie that deals with that outcome. Does anyone out there?
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