Friday, November 8, 2019

"Riders of the Sea" Reviewed

I recently attended a performance of The Synge Triptych at The Quintessence Theater. These one act plays provided an intriguing look into the nature of the human experience as envisioned by Irish playwright John Millington Synge.

Of the three, Synge's one-act play "Riders to the Sea" moved me in particular as it examines the human mourning process. Two Irish sisters seek to protect their mother from dire possibility of death after their brother was reported lost at sea. Carrying out that duty shields the sisters from the very suffering their mother finds herself embroiled in. At the play's climax, the family finds that deathly certainty alongside yet another brother drowned in pursuit of wages to support the family. With his body presented in full Irish wake fashion, the process of grief is able to progress. The sisters leave their protectiveness behind and wail at the heavens over the loss, while the mother finally finds peace in the healing breath of knowing the final outcome with certainty.

This play underscores the preciousness of human life and the mind's evolved process in defending itself from danger, not only to oneself but to ones family and tribe. Evolution is an uncaring bastard, as its primary directive is to ensure a genetic bloodline survives. As such, the increase in emotional distress is an internal flag that the current state of affairs may hold danger for the self and others that remain alive.

Personally, I question the usefulness of extended wallowing in misery. Perhaps, such suffering serves a mind clearing purpose in the grieving process. Cultural norms often encourage a "black veil' mourning period, which if ignored might go punished by the group.

Denial, on the other hand, is equally maladaptive. Only by facing reality can we begin to do anything about it. Belief that the soul moves on may seem a healing salve, alas it seems to denigrate the real life of a person now dead.

In the end, loss is inevitable. The human experience of sadness is part of human nature, and varies in intensity from person to person based on their genetic and experiential histories. One of the best things we can do when someone experiences a loss is to support them, and to allow others to support us.

Through these journeys of deep sadness healing can occur apace. And importantly, these trying moments also remind us that spending time with the ones we love by pursuing joyful experiences and effecting positive change in the world with our extended families is what really matters.

To that ends, get out and experience a great performances with a good friend or a family member often! Quintessence Theater in Mt. Airy is one such worthy venue.

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