I was in Boston this past week with Elements Theatre Company. Four members of the company performed “God of Carnage” by French playwright Yasmina Reza. In short, it is the story of two sets of parents who have met to discuss the fact that one of their sons has smashed the other in the face with a stick and broken two teeth. Through the course of the play, each parent is stripped down to their raw-est self and what seemed a clear cut case left me with more questions than answers.
It was a unique opportunity to see it almost four times. I learned things about myself I wasn’t completely prepared for. Like the fact that I make a hard and fast judgement based on surface facts. It seemed clear to me that the boy with the stick was at fault and should be punished – until the rest of the story started to come out and I found myself questioning the “victim.” Or that I, too, have a “public persona” I put on to ensure that I am well-received and liked, when what’s really underneath would rival any nine year-old. When I get uncomfortable with a situation, it’s easier to fixate on something else — like a tragedy in a foreign country — than to lean into what’s right in front of me.
Isn’t that partly (or mostly) why we go to theatre? To see ourselves and what we truly are – or could be? To see that maybe we don’t have to live our persona — maybe it’s possible to just be ourselves.