Last night I saw The Starry Messenger, by Kenneth Lonergan, at Wyndhams. I have no idea why the reviews we read gave it 3 stars. Only one reviewer, Ann Treneman, gave it 4 and liked it almost as much I did. (We did – Jeff came too.)
For me it was like a drink of cool water on a boiling hot day. Too many plays come with too much noise, sweating and swearing. This one sailed along like a cruise-liner (not that I cruise much.) Beneath it the deep and often unfathomable ocean of human relations and ideas, and above it a wide sky full of the universe. It had almost everything I needed for an evening`s theatre journey. On one level it was a story of Mark, played by Matthew Broderick, and his wife Anne. Well. Not much of a role for Elizabeth McGovern actually. Mark`s father was a strong off-stage and departed character. (Men in plays who boast deceased off-stage fathers rarely seem to have had mothers too but I`m used to that.) His friend Arnold was lively and dynamic. I was devising a separate play in which he was the protagonist. A lively one. Then of course, there was Mark`s mistress, played by a lovely actress, Rosalind Eleazar. Not to mention the gorgeous characters who kept trotting onto the stage, or into the classroom, pulling up their chairs, and settling in role as students of “Introduction to Astronomy.” Adult learners. No homework, no exams. Just the thirst for knowledge.
But knowledge of what? My mother, who died almost six years ago told me she was phobic about only one thing. Outer Space. When I tried to talk about it she would say: `No don`t let`s talk about it, it scares me.”
Some time in their youth, friends Matthew Broderick and Kenneth Lonergan actually took a twice-weekly adult education class in the basement of the New York Planetarium. The lecturer, coming from New Haven, or somewhere like it, made an indelible impression on both of them.
I am often impressed by the authenticity of plays and literature that derive from real-life experiences.
The huge philosophical question that has never been answered and I guess never will be, or at least not all in one way, to satisfy all the people all the time….the question has to be: how do you connect the material reality of the universe with the conceptual, emotional, abstract, philosophical conundrums of human life? Lovely question. I am not a philosophy student. I only ever was one for half of a degree, half a century ago. (Sheffield University) But a play that connects its characters with its audience by looking at how human life connects (or doesn`t) with the stars – that`s a good evening, for me.