Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Theater night. Intiman.

Still high off the hilarity of Below the Belt the night before, I head down to Intiman for A Thousand Clowns. The usher warns me that the play is almost three hours long, but then the lights go down and the laughs begin, and the time slips by. The center of the play is Murray Burns, a grumpy, curmudgeonly iconoclast who quit his job working for a children's television show and yells at his neighbors and plans trips to the Statue of Liberty. That he hates the world is obvious; equally obvious is his love for his nephew, Nick, who lives with him in a one-room apartment but spends the night with a neighbor whenever Murray has to "work." Your "work" left behind her gloves, points out Nick in the morning.

Reality crashes in when two social workers come to inspect their living situation and decide whether Murray is an acceptable guardian for his nephew. Murray confounds their every question, their every examination into his and Nick's life, until the investigation ends somewhat explosively, with the male half of the couple leaving, the female half staying...ending in one of the most hilarious mornings-after I have ever seen (with a rendition of "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" involving both uncle and nephew on ukeleles somewhere in between).

Beneath the humor there is still a burning anger that causes Murray to rage against everything, everyone, makes him yell at his neighbors from the open window. He can't make allowances, he can't make the changes that will help him keep Nick from being taken away. He can't force himself to accept a job, any job, especially not his old job writing jokes for a desperately unfunny man who has a children's show in which he performs while costumed as a giant squirrel dressed as a clown. (It is terrifying). He can't accept Sandra, the social worker, as a steady presence in his life, while she redecorates his one-room apartment with flowers and cushions and purple curtains. He can't be what Nick needs him to be, because that means that he would have to change, to grow up, to compromise. He can't. Or can he? Can any of us?

No comments: