Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mappa Mundi at the MET: The cartography of a new England

Hughston Wailkinshaw, Donette Coleman, Alan L. Boardman, Mykel Hill, and Katie Gilchrist. Courtesy of MET.

You have four more opportunities to absorb compelling theater and experience performances that will transport you. Great theater does that. Book your passage to a new England, in particular to a cozy back garden complete with a hammock, bench, table, chairs, deck, and, oh yes…a well stocked bar. Prepare to map your life as the characters negotiate their present, reminisce about the past, and dream about the future.

The accents may sound posh and polished, comfortably English, but this new England may remind you of E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End”, a story that asked the question “…who will inherit England?” Shelagh Stephenson’s tight but natural script asks questions and provides a buffet of answers. Characters discuss making choices. You will find yourself drawn to their dilemmas in this most intimate of settings; a relaxing garden. It seems a perfect setting to contrast with personal discomfort and conflict, beginnings, ends, the in-betweens, the ironic not so black and white nature of life in this contemporary new England. Can you relate this to your neighborhood, your life?

How do you measure a life? Where have you been? Are we defined by family history? Does the past inform the present? Do you define yourself based upon your career field? Is there such a thing as redemption? What is faith? Does the world have order?

When these characters discuss maps, their interpersonal warts and regrets fade into the background. Jack may be right. Maps lend a sense of order to the world, pin things down and give it shape. Is this possible in just two dimensions? Maps may define, but they can tend to confine as well, as Jack realizes at the age of 76…is that it? Is this map the essence, the definition of my time upon the earth? Jack also wonders if there’s another Jack or three out there living parallel lives in worlds he left behind or chose not to live.

Time is short, indeed, not only to catch one of the remaining performances of this play, but also to take some time soon in this gorgeous weather while it lasts, to sit in your back garden, be it real or in your mind, and map your life. See this play and the experience, the people, the dancing, the music, the magical MET on Main will linger as it has with me this morning. Excuse me while I try to sketch out a few things…

Mappa Mundi by Shelagh Stephenson
Directed by Bob Paisley

The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre
3614 Main Kansas City MO 614111
816.569.3226 www.metkc.org

Remaining performances:
Thursday, April 22 7:30
Friday, April 23 7:30
Saturday April 24 7:30
Sunday April 25 2:00

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