Review: “A Thousand Ways (second part): a meeting” at the public theater
At the theater, my stranger and I – I still don’t know his name, nor the lower part of his face – we sat at the table under the stage lights and submitted to the script: a neat stack of printed cards inserted into a small space at the bottom of the glass. An arrow, pointing my way or his, indicated who should take each card. On these, we read our lines and stage directions.
“Hello,” begins a stranger.
– Hi, said the other.
“It’s good to see you,” replied the first, and what is striking is that this line of dialogue turns out to be perfectly true. He also alludes to what this exercise requires and allows: that we look at each other closely, but with kindness; that we take turns talking and listening; as we try to imagine the contours of each other’s humanity. In this shattered culture, when compassion for the stranger can be much shorter than instinctive antipathy, it is no small gesture.
Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, aka 600 Highwaymen, give the strangers of “An Encounter” a common goal: to get through the storyline together.
“In silence, look in front of you and imagine what keeps them from sleeping at night,” one reads in one staging. “In silence, imagine something they are facing,” said another.
They ask us to draw with our fingertips on the glass (my stranger is a better artist than me), to tell us scripted stories, to ask and answer a long list of quirky yes or no questions: “Did you ever broken a bone? ”“ Have you ever broken a heart? ”When my stranger answered yes to that one, his dark eyes became so moving that I felt his anguish and wanted to know more, but this is of course not allowed.
“A meeting” is less about the details of our life than “a phone call” and more about spending time in the physical presence of another human being. I know my foreigner has a passport, can’t drive a shifter, and loves to dance. I know he has a neat handwriting. I suppose he is an actor and that he, like me, seized the opportunity of this experience out of impatience for the return of the theater.
But is it theater? Not really, although the script has a beautifully solid structure and the ending is both surprising and powerful. Rather, this play uses the tools of the theater – the text, the narration, the agreement to come together at one point for a collective experience – to achieve the goals of the theater, above all the excitement of empathy and love. compassion. How extraordinary “A Meeting” is, it only struck me afterwards.