Sunday's discussion consisted of an interesting exercise-- try to tell someone what the play is about. Our esteemed colleague Ralph joined us for the afternoon, and served as our guinea pig. We tried to discuss the action of the play to him, sometimes talking over one another (sorry about that, Margi) and stopping at the end of each act to try to determine what, if anything, had actually happened. For instance, the first act is full of information that sets up the rest of the play, but in terms of events that advance the action, really one thing happens: Cecilia doesn't show up for her appointment at the milliner's shop.
What is this play really about? We have been encouraged to come up with one sentence or phrase to which we can refer, so we can make sure that all of our actions as actors support that theme. As he pointed out, it would be quite easy to get caught up in all of the silliness and ornament and completely lose the action of the play. My teacher Arden used to refer to the "gesture" of the play, and would ask us to try to construct or find something three-dimensional to represent this essential gesture in our design classes.
I would love to hear other company member's opinions about what the "gesture" or "theme" of this play really is. Some of the suggestions Sunday had to do with Passion tempered by Reason, or similar formulations. Cecilia and Beaufort's love story is clearly at the center, but they also clearly get saved by Censor's quick thinking and good sense. Cecilia's romantic ideals (or naivete about what true love is: i.e., if he really loved me, he'd come to me right away) jepordize her real-life relationship with Beaufort-- she nearly leaves the country without even confirming that he has in fact abandoned her.
The strength and fire of Love tempered by the common sense of Reason? Or is the play ultimately about Censor, someone whose love seems to be entirely confined to his brotherly love of Beaufort, but who has little patience for romantic love? What would have been the story if he had not come to Cecilia's rescue with his five thousand pounds? Is the message then "Only love where you can afford it"? The epilogue has to do with Self-Sufficiency, an ironic theme for a play which was never performed during its author's lifetime because she was not in fact self-sufficient.