Last Wednesday, I attended a dress rehearsal for the play “Noises Off!” at The Whole Backstage Theater in Guntersville. Directed by Johnny Brewer, the play is a story within a story about the fictional play “Nothing On,” following the cast as they hilariously fumble through their own dress rehearsal and performances. The first act of the fictional play is shown three times for Act 1, 2 and 3 of the real play, each from a different perspective.
Beyond the great direction, acting and farcical comedy, what made the play stand out was the metaphysical nature of the plot. I was watching a play about a play, which at one point had its own fake audience watching the fake play within the real play. The actors played characters with different personalities from that of the character’s character they were playing. Roles within roles; narrative within narrative.
Shakespeare said, “all the world’s a stage,” and we are all actors making our entrances and exits. The implication being we each have our role to play in the drama of life, one predetermined and changing as we move and age. Oscar Wilde echoed the sentiment, adding “the play is badly cast.”
If we’re honest, many of us would agree that it can feel badly cast. Social media is full of people posting heavily choreographed images and curated quotes to project a character of depth and success when reality is less orderly or exciting.
Most people live mediocre lives, coasting on careers, moving from school to work to retirement to the grave, falling into a role all too often different than what’s projected on social media. We chase a narrative based on our subjective perceptions of reality informed by our culture. It is our default setting, to go along playing the dual role of actor and audience member.
We want control, feel we can control, but also fear having real control over our lives. Thus, we must decide, either through action or passivity, what role we will play versus the one we’re meant to fulfill.
Materialism and political correctness are comorbid disorders shaping today’s cultural narrative, attacking the heart, soul and mind of society. They have subtracted meaning from life beyond the accumulation of wealth and comfort and divested purpose from words and action. Materialism requires more and better while PC seeks to attain it through nefarious means. Both leave the sufferer wanting.
The conceit of the play within a play is just that; a fantasy. In reality, “Noises Off!” is just one story, with each line scripted for the actors who are each performing one role.
Though a few practical fictions are necessary to function as a society, life is ultimately one narrative with many roles. But when the fictional overtakes the objective, when materialism and PC overtake truth with a narrative of their own, our culture begins to warp toward confusion, immorality and loss of freedom. It happens like Ernest Hemingway said about going bankrupt: gradually, then suddenly.
Daniel Taylor is a staff writer for The Reporter. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.