Theatre Review: "The Pain and Joy that is Life" by Argenis Ovalles ('17)

Eliza Bent and Daniel Kublick in Tom & Eliza. Photo by Knud Adams.

Eliza Bent and Daniel Kublick in Tom & Eliza. Photo by Knud Adams.

My father and mother made love. I was born. Bullied from 1st grade to 10th grade. Graduated high school. Went to college. Saw a play. Their fathers and mothers made love, and Tom and Eliza were born. With that being said, I am so thankful I saw this play. I don’t even know how I got to see it. February 18th was literally the busiest day this semester. When the day came, I realized there was another event I had to attend, an interview at 4:00PM. After it finished, I figure I’d go to Zaytoon’s. What was the problem? I am bad at directions. I honestly have no idea how I got to the restaurant from Atlantic by walking. It took me a while, but I made it. The bad side? I was late, so there wasn’t too much time to order food. Even better? There were leftovers. Lots of them. And I am not ashamed to say I lost some of my soul while eating those leftovers. After inspiring everyone to order the chocolate mousse, we walked to JACK to see the show.

As we walk to the theater, we made a path: the block was ours. The fast walkers were in front. The regular ones were in the middle. And the snails, who sometimes get on my (insert cursing word here) nerves, were far behind. It was a nice walk; it always is. It is the appropriate activity to forget you are a college student with overwhelming and terrifying responsibilities, only to end up talking about grad school plans. You see what I did there? Anyway, we got there! To JACK.

JACK is what we would call an off-off Broadway theater. It has less than a hundred seats; it is cozy. Everything was going fine until I saw matches. Now, speaking as someone who barely smokes and whose house caught fire as a kid, I had my concerns. Eventually, the lights came down and I found out they were part of the show. The set design was amazing. It was a medium-sized couch with two lamps to the side and what look like black petals on the ground. That was a nice touch. It foreshadowed the nature of the play.   

When the play starts, we learn that Tom and Eliza are on a date on that couch. I like to think of the couch as life. Every single occurrence that happens in their life is told in that couch. And it often switches from third person, to second person, and first person. It was like listening to an audio book. Their lives are told from that couch, from Tom’s chronic masturbation issue and Eliza’s unhealthy obsession with burning books to Tom’s fear of his children: Daniel, Sally, and James.

This play is also a sneak peek into what it means to get old with your significant other. At some point Tom asks “What happens after your kids leave the house?” As trivial as it sounds, people don’t give it too much thought. Based on this play, after your kids leave, they carry on the parents’ teachings, both good and bad; as it was seen by the kids’ hobby of burning books. Like mother like kids. After your kids leave the house, you have less responsibilities as a parent; the nest is empty. After your kids leave, all you have left is your life partner. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well, except for the part in which monotony bores them of each other and inspires the need for breaks from each other. One of two things can happen out of that: they can reconcile, or remain distant. Tom and Eliza remained distant.

As depressing as it sounds, it was a great play. I really liked how they went back and forth interacting with the audience and each other. What really bothered me is that, even though it was a comedy, it also had tragic parts as I mentioned. There was no reason for a member of the audience to laugh at every single thing that was happening. Tom got Alzheimer's for God’s sake, and died in a bath tub full of his bodily fluids, calling himself an oyster. That’s not funny at all. What was hilarious was that moment when the play ended and no one really noticed; we thought it was part of the show. Until we clapped. Even though I couldn’t get pictures of the play, it was fantastic. With only two actors in it, Eliza Bent and Daniel Kublick, you are aware of the delights and disgusts of life. Celine Song, the playwright, wrote a merciless battle that goes from an ordinary third date to the loneliness that is the end. It is funny, disgusting, terrifying, and full of ecstasy. Just like life itself, a black rose, both beautiful and scary all in one.