Les Éphémères @ Park Avenue Armory
Who are the Ephemeral?
Human beings! We are the ephemeral.
Is there a written text?
Is there one unique plot?
There is no one unique plot. As I said, this is a play made up of visions arising from each of the actors, from each one of us, from each one of you, which cross over, which tie up with each other. I think there is a common thread. But when that thread is too visible, it becomes a ligature, a garrote. In our work, this thread must be like the silken thread of a spider.
— Ariane Mnouchkine, Note from the Director
So we sit, long rows of heads lined up on long wooden benches, flat backs, straight shoulders, staring across at the same, a virtual mirror of ourselves, facing ourselves, all of us watching below, on the concrete floor, ourselves in another mirror. The decks roll in on silent feet, and silent hands spin them round, and the stories spin out and rise up to meet us—short stories as performance art, short stories as dreams, wishes, nightmares, memories—each scene like the briefest glimpse through a different window of a passenger train, delivered without explanation or preamble yet instantly recognizable, immediately familiar. The personal, the private, the collective, the universal—the human: Who sees us? Who hears us? Whose lives do we touch?
(Lord knows I hate sounding unintentionally pretentious, but there are times when only earnestness will do. And I'm sorry if none of this makes sense, but how could it possibly, if you have not seen what I have seen? A two-part, seven-hour, plotless play in French, a vigorous trial of both the senses and the backside? I'm not clever enough to give you a lucid "review," and even if you've seen it, I could not swear to you that we saw the same thing. For me, this: Everything is ordinary. Everything is extraordinary. Non, mais oui! Extraordinaire.* And I will be haunted by "The Ultrasound" and "Sandra's Birthday" forever.)
*This? This enormous effort I take with the language? This is why they will love me in France.