Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dress-Up Op

The Sunday before last  Sue, Julie, Dave, and I went to the Loeb Drama Center to see Clifford Odet's Paradise Lost, a play set during the Depression.  Wouldn't this play ring relevently true in today's economic environment?  In case our audience is too dense to figure it out, let's have the characters in modern dress (but with the 1935 dialogue) and have a couple of characters in the 3rd act wear Enron and AIG tee-shirts.  But, alas, even with good acting this stinker wasn't good enough to survive revival.

All of us, including J.B., who went on Saturday, thought the acting was good and the play weak.  (The Crimson reviewer thought different.)  But we still enjoyed going.  Something about live performance thrilled us more than movies.

This thrill is partly due to Dionysus, the divine patron of theater.  By going to a play we participate in a Dionysian rite.  Any accompanying numinosity should not surprise us.

Theater-going is also a dress-up op: a chance to wear those items too flashy or weird for work.  Of course, people don't dress the way they used to, when the whole theater stayed lit, and you could examine the audience's raiment (such as the lovely presentation gown by Worth, at the right) at any time during the evening.  In 1881 the Savoy Theatre introduced the practice of darkening the auditorium during the performance.*

Even though we aren't visible as much to our fellow theater-goers, we can dress up to satisfy ourselves and Dionysus.  We satisfy ourselves by playing a more festive alter ego, and this makes Dionysus happy.

* Judith Flanders, Inside the Victorian Home:  A Portrait of Life in Victorian England, London: HarperCollins, 2003, page 204

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