Aria da Capo by Edna St. Vincent Millay is one of my favourite plays. When the Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre board forced me to try my hand at directing (and I do mean forced), it did not take me long to choose this play for Remembrance Day weekend. I love absurdist theatre and its capacity to simultaneously entertain the eye, delight the ear, and stimulate the intellect. Millay is a master of symbolic language and use of tradition with a twist.
The sophistication of Pierrot, wedded to his cynicism, offers a compelling view of a clever socialite overwhelmed with appetites. He is a man who has everything but holds nothing of substance, except his deep longing for that which he knows not how to pursue -- let alone hold. His character parodies how we feel in the lonely moments of our existence, when the pursuit is everything (we think), and in the end we are not even sure we want anything at all. We may, all of us, be “tired of the moon.”
Columbine offers us delightful diversion with her own yearning for affection and belonging; she is never quite settled enough to obtain the satisfaction of truly being at peace. She wants to be noticed and yet notices nothing of substance which could give her a secure foundation. We catch a glimmer of her true self (and perhaps ours) in the line, “Isn’t there something else….some humble vegetable that grows in the ground?” but this knowledge quickly dissipates in her self-absorption.
The shepherds Thyrsis and Corydon are perhaps too grounded and earnest in their innocence. They are caught in a play not of their scripting (as Cothurnus conscripts them into a tragedy) yet it is of their making. The violent gamesmanship of war, whose magnitude and chaos consume the most fundamental elements of our humanity, damages everyone and strips even the farce of its comedic properties.
Life is indeed absurd. Allow your mind and spirit wander the thin line between farce and tragedy, peace and war, love and hate, hope and despair.
-Terry Zimmerly, director
Editor's Note: Aria da Capo is playing November 11-13 at Le Cercle Moliere.