In response to last week’s critique of On Aging

By Brett Billings ’12

Similar to a handful of art reviews this year, reading The Lafayette’s critique of College Theater’s On Aging, “didn’t sit right with me,” to quote a familiar source.  Now freer to opine, and having seen the play last weekend, I’ll take the offer, and call our reviewer “ignorant to the nuances of” theater.

Implicitly certain to those who saw On Aging: the clock is ticking.  Our time is short.

That the play didn’t sit well with our reviewer is no surprise.  What 20-something-year-old liberal arts student enjoys facing their mortality — much less the process?  They’re invincible!

“Aging is a natural process, not a medical condition,” we hear early in the play.  And like a strict grandfather sitting across the table, there is earnestness in these actors, many whom have performed little or never, as though they too knew the proffered prunes were good for them — but can’t stomach the thought of facing mortality either.

Their work is a semester’s worth of research and interviews, combing psychology and performance — a truly liberal arts endeavor.  And while the delivery of this work, all true by the way, is young and fast-paced, the message is weighted with sagacity.

The cast, under Suzanne Westfall’s direction, combines narrative, music, song, poetry and family photos in a mash-up of memories, each vying not to be forgotten like the dusty relics cluttering set designer Zach Tysinger’s attic-like set.

Who are we kidding?  Reviewing all this work is difficult.  More so when we consider what makes one person’s opinion printable over another’s.

Reviewers examine the work, not for the story they hope entertains them alone, but for the story with which the artists strive to engage us all.  Sometimes artists’ methods work.  Sometimes not.  But we don’t need reviewers who slapdash, “This I liked; that I didn’t.”  How boring!

We need reviewers who review like artists, providing readers a deeper “viewing” of the play.  Theater isn’t passive story-telling, but a style full of vivacity.  And reviewing is an art itself.

“I am what I am, because of what I did,” we hear in On Aging.  Often during the play, audience members were caught in a spotlight’s focus or surrounded by actors, moving about the space and reminding us that we aren’t passive recipients of art: we are active players in how we choose to live and age.

What we do is who we are.  No matter the age.

So we too play our scenes, act our thousand little dramas and die our thousand little stage deaths every day.  And when the lights finally fade away? Well, to quote one actor on aging, “Son, someday you’ll understand.”

 

Brett Billings ‘12

Laconia, N.H.

 

Billings was a Creative and Performing Arts (CaPA) Fellow and former Editor-in-Chief for The Lafayette.