I’m not a fan of plays. I am amazed myself why I was compelled to read a review of this and borrow it. It’s either the review is too convincing or the play is too good. Or maybe I just like the sound of the title. Sometimes, we just pick our next reads without much thought, right?
This does not mean though that the play is a thoughtless piece of literature. It’s about these two pairs of parents who are trying to have an adult conversation regarding their respective sons. One son hit the other while they were at the park. There are medical expenses to take care of, but what concerns the parents the most is the prevention of this violent and childish behavior. So yes, they will all be adults about this, hence, the adult conversation for an adult resolution.
There’s only one act, so we are stuck with the four in a nice and posh living room. I could imagine the smell of fresh linen, the incandescent lights, the spotless fastidiousness of a housekeeper who knows how to do her job right. It’s not the room where you would leave hyperactive 11-year-old kids. There’s a sense of serenity in it, but this is easily disturbed as one parent after another breaks out of his or her so-called adult upbringing.
Children consume and fracture our lives. Children drag us towards disaster, it’s unavoidable. When you see those laughing couples casting off into the sea of matrimony, you say to yourself, they have no idea, poor things, they just have no idea, they’re happy. No one tells you anything when you start out. I have an old school pal who’s just about to have a child with his new girlfriend. I said to him, “A child, at your age, are you insane?” The ten or dozen good years left to us before we get cancer or a stroke, and you’re going to bugger yourself up with some brat?
Michel and Veronique, parents of the so-called victim, invite Alain and Annette over. Each parent has a distinct character, and this is easily revealed in the exchange of dialogues and actions. Of course, this is a play, what am I thinking?
The discussion of their kids’ behavior started with all civility. Alain’s mobile phone rings incessantly. Annette shows signs of vulnerability. Veronique’s self-absorption becomes too evident. Michel takes out a bottle of rum. And then there’s … carnage. An exchange of verbal assaults, that is. It’s a royal rumble, although there’s also some humor in the way the characters react to the situation.
Every façade that each parent erected is dismantled with each turn of the discussion. They snicker behind each other, they inadvertently show the cracks of their marriages, they shed off their skin, one by one, to reveal their true characters. So this is me. Isn’t it funny? I’m all grown up, I have kids, I have a stable job, and yet, I have not let go of this nibbling irrationality. It surfaces every so often without me really knowing it. But I tell my kids how they should behave. I should know how they should act, and I should castigate them if they don’t act accordingly.
So is that what being an adult is? Tell anyone what to do without examining yourself? The conversation meanders from various random topics. It is through these that we see their biases and prejudices, the things that make them do things, and the reasons behind their reasoning. The play goes on and on with this bickering that didn’t fail to entertain me. I like it, and I’m thinking of watching its film adaptation since I doubt that I will ever see this on stage. (But it was presented last July with our own Lea Salonga and of course, I just found this out today through the news archives.)
I think the title is charmed. Or jinxed. I read the entire play on my bus rides to and from the office. On the last reading, while I was on the second to the last page, something happened. A man, probably in his early 20s, pointed his knife at the neck of the passenger right in front of me. He commanded him to hand over his smartphone. The passenger couldn’t help it; he complied without any word.
When I hear of such stories, I am infuriated because of the people around the victim not doing anything. Why didn’t they help? Why did they let the felon go just like that? Now I think I know the reason: they froze in fear. I couldn’t lift my eyes off the knife. I could only hold on to a book 60 pages long, as if it were the most solid shield against any sharp-edged weapon. I couldn’t think of anything else to do. In hindsight, the whole act lasted for no more than ten seconds, including the escape.
Isn’t it a coincidence that this small-scale carnage happened while I was reading the book? Was the God of Carnage summoned by my reading? And mind you, the victim could’ve been me. I might have been fiddling with my phone had I not been reading. The thief might have chosen me instead of the man in front of me. So you see, depending on how you see things, the book is charmed. Or jinxed.