Setting Limits

Sep 16, 2016

This week, Jeanette talks about, "Setting Limits"


“Whoa! Hold on! This thing is a mess!” Those were my thoughts as I sat through a recent play production. And, they weren’t thoughts about the acting or the staging; those things were quite splendid: creative and well executed. No, those thoughts were about the play itself. And, let me tell you, those thoughts scared me because I’m just a retiree and a mother, not a playwright or a literary critic. How dare I deign to mentally trash a play written by no less than the immortal William Shakespeare? Understand, I’m not a Shakespeare-basher. I’ve been liking THE BARD since I was a kid going to Shakespeare in the Park in the summertime. As this was a play that I never had seen staged, I actually was excited to attend. Generally, I really admire his work and eagerly attend productions of his plays. There’s a reason that even now, 400 years later, we still quote many of his lines—often without attribution—in our daily speech. The man was GOOD!To make my shocking negative opinion worse, I attended the performance along with people with high-falutin’ educations, including mover-and-shaker English majors.  In addition to thinking, “What a mess!” I also thought about what film director Kar-Wai Wong said in the movie, The First Monday in May, “Seeing too much is seeing nothing.” My thoughts made me dread getting into the car afterward and trying to disguise my lowbrow observations while they raved about the master. Surprise though! They thought much the same—in fancier terms, of course. “What was that?!” seemed to be the consensus.  Peer pressure is important, so I was mightily relieved.At the risk of tarring myself with the brush of ignorance, let me tell you my “issue” with the play: busyness, “seeing too much.” Just some of the way-too-many elements contained: a contest to win the hand of (supposed) fair maiden, incest, pirates, shipwrecks, brothels, sword fights, families separated, families reunited, people trying to have other people killed, and the ever-popular supposedly-dead-people-being-brought- back-to-life. As nearly as I can remember, the only thing missing was twins-separated-at-birth. It is a veritable weird-sisters cauldron of plotlines. Can you guess the play? If so, you’re very good, because it’s almost never performed: and with good cause; it’s exhausting. Pericles, Prince of Tyre is the answer. Parenthetically, remember that I said plural, “shipwrecks.” If a guy named Pericles asks you to go on a nautical jaunt, flee; save yourself. Every time, he is the only survivor. This guy is a human albatross.Trying to rationalize the mish-mash of this play, I thought, “Well, maybe it was an early play and Wild Bill just had yet to figure out about pacing and setting limits on the action.” The part from earlier about being a mother clicks in here: helping people to learn to set limits. “He was young and just needed a mother to tell him, ‘Stop it! There’s way too much going on here. You need to pick just a few of these or the audience will get dizzy.’” A check of the chronology of Shakespeare’s plays though showed me that it is listed about two-thirds of the way along in his canon. Knowing that, you just have to consider the possibility that he was nearing being an old burnout and just threw in almost every plot element that he ever had used in order to crank out another play: i.e. generate some more income. Maybe he needed to make a boat payment. Or, maybe, over one too many tankards, one of his cronies dared him to try to write a play where he loaded in everything. Perhaps these are cynical thoughts, but they are reasonable explanations for this no-limits storyline. Well, almost no-limits, there was the absence of that twins-separated-at-birth thing. These musings easily translate to, as they say in grammar school, current events. As a society, we seem to have “no limits” behaviors about oh-so-many things. Many of us overeat—substitute almost any activity here: over-diet, over-exercise, over-accumulate, over-medicate,  . . . over-pontificate. Setting limits on our activities is a useful life skill. A good time for me, Jeanette Saddler Taylor for Michiana Chronicles, to say to myself, “Whoa, there!”