Friday, February 26, 2010

The Pavilion - by Craig Wright

Sometimes I assume things. Like my friend Kyle. When first introduced I thought he was a Marine Biologist. Turns out he's a theater director (among other things), but it may have been a year before I really figured that out. I have a stubborn mind. (not stubborn enough to read through more than four plays by Howard Barker, but more like I get fixed ideas that are tough to dislodge) The Pavilion fell into this mind trap with me. I always thought it was an elaborate, site-specific, epic sort of play - and therefore, because it is a play that is performed often, I was like Wow. They are doing that big ol' play? well not exactly.

First produced in 2000, The Pavilion is a two act drama set in rural Minnesota at a high school reunion. The two main characters, Peter and Kari share a past as high school sweet-hearts, 'the cutest couple' in fact, and made choices then that have kept them apart - until now. A narrator character steps in as a cast of other guests at the reunion, and acts as a sort of Stage Manager, as in Our Town, adding a larger philosophical dimension to the drama between these two characters who find themselves in lives that feel like they've gone off track ever since their senior year.

In the first act we learn somethings about what drove them apart, a lot about each of their current situations and watch Peter try in vain to get Kari to give him the time of day, just to talk, to put to rest some of what's been left broken between them. He fails, she explodes and the act ends.

The second act begins with Kari in a more forgiving mood and though there is no easy reconciliation there is some real peace found - and the other characters played by the narrator reveal in snatches of conversation a bit of the sorrow of many lives, feeling narrowed by choices, by age, by dis-contentment - these finally take over and finish off the play in a monologue of disconnected phrases, all painfully specific to what's gone before - and feeling universal.

The title of the play refers to the location of the reunion. An old Pavilion in town that has played host to all major community events. It is slated to be burned down at the end of the night, to make room for a concrete amphitheater that will host a summer concert festival. This metaphor - the past being burnt down for the present - the sense of life disappearing around them - being at sea in a country that paves over its past for a buck given the slightest opportunity - looms over the play, and gives the simplicity of the story being told it's location and weight, out there on the plains. Under the stars.

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