theatre notes. o lovely glowworm. (coda).
This was the second time I went to see O Lovely Glowworm; I've already written about the first experience.
I generally don't go see a play twice in one run, but I was so enchanted and confused by O Lovely Glowworm that I had to see it a second time. I also have to admit that the theater is four blocks away from my home, which made it an easy decision. This time, on the last night, the theater was completely packed. There were familiar faces in the audience - Hana Lass a few rows behind me, and I thought I saw Suzanne Bouchard farther back. (I clutched my friend J. and hissed "IT'S SUZANNE BOUCHARD! I'VE LOVED HER SINCE I WAS 12!" but fortunately no one else seemed to have noticed).
The late Mark Chamberlin was the one who persuaded the members of New Century Theatre Company to produce this play; it was his love for O Lovely Glowworm that started it all. It is clear that the act of rehearsing and performing, night after night, was a way of grieving for this much-loved lost friend. But the play has to stand on its own, without this hovering spirit, and so it does. At first it is all a little confusing in some places (the first time I saw it, I was still thinking, WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON at the intermission), bogging down in others. But this time the varying story arcs begin to connect more clearly, and the puzzle pieces of the 'scenes of great beauty' start to fit into place.
At the heart of the story is a maggot-ridden stuffed goat lying on a rubbish-heap. To distract himself from the agony of living, he invents these 'scenes of great beauty,' weaving together the lives of a miserable boy convinced that his great invention is just around the corner, two soldiers on the run from the Great War who fall in love with a mermaid, and the goat itself, who is trying to figure out his own identity. Is he a tram-conductor, a racehorse, a unicorn, a dog? As tangled as the stories are they bring us back to some very simple things: the pain of existence which does not stamp out our search for identity and for a purpose in life, the possibility of hope when all seems lost, and most of all, our never-ending longing for love.
What keeps me coming back to plays like O Lovely Glowworm and theater companies like the New Century Theatre Company is the sense that it is a labor of love. That there is a tremendous amount of trust and friendship between the actors, who have all known each other and worked together, in some cases for years. They do play readings on their nights off and gather for drinks after a show. They come to each others performances. Seattle is a theater town. I'm lucky to be here.