After the chemical gas attack, we were all scattered this way and that on the stage floor, pretending to be dead, while the invisible audience sat back in their seats, shocked at how the drama had played out. A hushed silence had filled the auditorium, punctuated only by the random cough or sigh.
Our faces were chaotic with the grimaces we had mimicked in the mirror until we got the look just right. It was the look of immediate horror combined with disbelief — artfully feigned disbelief that the action had ended so abruptly, before we could marry the lover, raise the children, watch grandchildren on the old oak tree in the front yard swinging with happy abandon in the bright sunshine, while we held the old cat in our laps and reminisced about the good times.
As the credits slowly scrolled down the screen, and the curtain began to descend, it was clear that these tragic scripts about sudden death and poignant loss, although a bit shop-worn by now, always manage to bring a tear. Just so, the customers will return again and again for repeat performances, insuring that the play will carry on perpetually, with minor variations.
It seems we are fascinated by suffering, and so we prefer the sad tales to the happier ones. Tragedy always reigns over comedy. Perhaps such emotionally complex screenplays give us more to chew on, to contemplate as we ride the bus to work the next morning, or sit in our cubicles staring absently at the computer screen.
Certainly, the old cliche that misery loves company seems truer every day. Why else would we surround ourselves with it, why keep writing it in as the pivotal feature in our individual and collective virtual dramas? Well, for the moment we will leave the answers to those questions to the critics — let them speculate on the writers’ motives, and assess the success or failure of the theatrical productions as they tour through our towns and cities.
If truth be told, we are both actor and audience, writer and critic, but we have to keep our roles separate while we are here for the time being, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to carry it all off with straight faces. One thing we might eventually recognize: it may be a made-up drama, but the consequences are real.