On Sunday, we went to see the play “You and Me” at the Greenwich Theatre. This is an adaptation of the play ‘Tu I Jo’ by Richard Simeon. The two performers, Patricia Rodriguez and Merce Ribot are excellent comic actors, switching effortlessly from English to Spanish.
They exhibit genuine talent for physical theatre, using their bodies and voices to evoke the lives of two ageing sisters spending their final years trapped together.
Through jokes, miming, song and dancing, the dilemmas and issues facing the elderly are portrayed artfully and humourously.
The actors’ expressive faces drew spectators into the performance, as they reminisced, and as they planned their own funerals.
There was a positive response and much laughter throughout the production, demonstrating the writer’s and actors’ ability to connect emotionally with their audience.
My wife teaches drama, and came away with a heap of fresh ideas to try out on her kids. Visits to the theatre are often for us a kind of exploratory fieldtrip to garner new tricks to use in class.
However, although it was obviously intended to be funny, I didn’t laugh much. I think I was too aware of the contrast between the surface humour and the deeper tragedy of the sisters’ lives.
The play explores the disappointments of failed dreams, the difficulty of family relationships, and the onset of dementia.
But beginning with an extended fart from one of the sisters, all the author offers is a raspberry in the face of a meaningless existence.
At one point I think the play passed into a moment of poignant intensity, when it seemed that one sister had died.
That would have been the place to end the play, emphasising the contrast between the absurdist humour of the first half and the tragic finality of death.
But the playwright, I suspect, pulled back from such a hopeless conclusion. Instead the woman is revealed to have been merely asleep.
Judging by the audience’s delighted reaction afterwards, the author was probably right to make this decision. Was it not T. S. Eliot who said that people cannot bear too much reality?
But the writer’s inability to face the full ramifications of his own comic creation means the production fails to transition from lightweight farce to existentialist drama.
This failure belongs to the play itself; it’s not a reflection on the actually very spirited performance of the two actors themselves.
Resolutely exploring the future-fact of our death is something we all shy away from. It is too painful, too threatening to our everyday sense of normality.
Jean Paul Sartre wrote that we cannot experience or anticipate our own death. Death is merely a contingent brute fact, devoid of meaning.
For You and Me, is this enough?