chelfitsch Jan 29, 2009
The first five minutes of Five Days in March reminded me of the first five days or so of the one-plus quarters of Japanese I took in undergrad. Which is to say, I felt completely disoriented and out of my element. I was trying to simultaneously read the supertitles and watch the story being told in the quiet physicality that was unfolding on stage, at every moment convinced that one was making me miss out on the other. Gradually I relaxed, and much like my college experience I found that when I stopped trying to "listen actively" and just listened and trusted my own senses, the pieces started to fall into place. As I surrendered to the flow of the performance, certain patterns and facts began to emerge and resonate: 'no' means 'of'; perception is a tricky thing; our war has affected the whole world; 'gakusei desuka?' is how you ask somebody if she's a student; we are all ultimately trapped within our own bodies, limited by our own vocabularies, and this is an occasionally awkward fact of life. I thought about mercurial friendships I've had. I thought about first dates I've been on. I thought about whether the pronunciation of chelfitsch would rhyme with "selfish", with "shellfish", or neither. I thought about where I was on March 20, 2003. I thought about the enjoyment of bad movies for badness' sake. I thought about concerts I've been to. I thought about Canada. O, Canada!
During intermission I listened to some college kids awkwardly trying to flirt with one another, which seemed oddly appropriate. Somehow it underscored the abortive romantic encounter of the first act, which may have been my favorite part of the entire show. I loved the straightforwardness of the whole thing, and the way that it used light in simple geometric shapes to suggest an abstract geography in the bare space.
Mostly though, what I walked away from this evening with was an idea: that, while the larger facts of history are being painted in broad strokes and bold colors every day and at any given moment, and while each of us exists internally in his or her own expansive emotional universe, the vast majorities of our daily lives are consumed by and expressed in little pencil scribbles, oftentimes tracking right over yesterday's carefully erased scrawls. During my five days in March I remember watching live coverage on CNN as the world waited to see when the bombs would start dropping, and I remember feeling deep moral uncertainty once they did. But it's entirely likely that I was more worried about getting my Japanese homework done at the time.