Hurrying along to crisis

A new play at the Xperimental Theatre tells the story of a life never lived

Greg Corradini

While some pushovers blindly serve the law, the folks at the Xperimental Theatre enforce a code of theatrical investigation.

Under inspection this weekend is “Red, Black and Ignorant.” The first of Edward Bond’s trilogy of war plays examines what one man’s life would have been if nuclear warfare had not incinerated him before birth.

But don’t be misled.

Director and graduate student Wade Hollingshaus said “Red, Black and Ignorant” might have more to say about the social systems that inevitably sustain war than the politics of war itself.

“I don’t want people to think that this is an anti-war play,” Hollingshaus said. “Bond is partially trying to say that until we begin to rethink the way that we think, then we’re just stuck perpetuating the mandates that we, for some reason, live by.”

In Bond’s play, being stuck means being tightly sewn into a societal fabric where strict laws of conduct are never questioned.

In one scene, a boy on the playground accidentally spits on the main character, Monster. Spitting is strictly forbidden on this playground.

Although the boys involved forgive and forget, a teacher learns of the incident and makes the two confront each other again. The confrontation inevitably leads to a fight.

Much in the same way that Bond’s script rethinks the social system in his play, Hollingshaus will be futzing with the way audiences experience the production itself.

Drawing upon the ideas of playwright Bertolt Brecht, Hollingshaus said he wants to make the apparatus of the theatrical production visible.

“I always want the audience to have the sense that the characters are actors,” he said.

Although the actors will be in character, they are never fully in character, he said.

In “Red, Black and Ignorant,” there are no stage managers or lighting designers. The actors will do all the production elements themselves.

In addition, Hollingshaus, technically the director of the play, will also be acting in the production.

“I play a character in one part,” he said. “Other times, I kind of say some things (onstage) as a director. Even though I play the director, I am playing a character of the director. I am really trying to blur the line.”

Further blurring the line between reality and theater, is the heightened poetic verse in which Bond has chosen to write his play.

Disjointed, passive and bold in its similes, Bond’s narrative itself is like a firebrand poking the ears of its listeners.

“It’s certainly not beautiful verse. I mean it is, but it’s a horrifically beautiful verse,” Hollingshaus said. “It’s kind of stabbing.”

Passive viewer or active reader, the folks at the Xperimental Theatre are going to bully convention and challenge all law-abiding citizens to think twice.

“If you just live by the letter and don’t have consideration for the spirit of the law, then humanity is lost,” Hollingshaus said.