What's it about?
Afterplay is an unusual play, casting two characters from famous works – Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters – and placing them at a point in time several years after the conclusion of their original stories. Set in a Moscow café in the 1920s, the play explores a conversation between these two characters, and asks the audience to come along for the ride.
What'd I experience?
I was fortunately able to get to Afterplay well ahead of schedule. When I got to the theater, however, I quickly sensed that I was out of place. Not a single patron was under the age of forty (besides me). Even though I am a bit of an old soul at heart – I’m a huge fan of Motown and the Beatles – I still was anxious. It’s one thing to feel different in a new setting, but another to look and be out of place compared with the rest of the people there.
As I took my seat, the hum of chatter was all around me. Most of the other audience members did not come alone. I, on the other hand, was alone and sticking out like a sore thumb.
I was taken by surprise at how warm the theatre environment was – I felt like I was sitting in an extension of the set rather than just in the audience. I loved the dim lights and the curtains and drapes that set a very intimate mood, like I was privy to some secret conversations that I was not supposed to hear.
Sonya and Andrey, the only two characters in the entirety of the play, first appeared to me as nothing more than ordinary people having ordinary conversations. I was puzzled by the plainness. I could have had those same kinds of talks with a friend or a kind stranger. In theatre, I usually look for a moment that distinguishes it from reality. But, I had an especially difficult time managing that for Afterplay. It was so believable; defining fact from fiction was really difficult.
As the story developed, though, things became less and less plain. I was caught by surprise at how frequently the two were caught in lies. Sure, I’ve told lies in my life before – haven’t we all at some point – but not to the point that they did. I got angry at their deceit. What was the point of spending the first forty-five minutes sitting here, learning about their lives, if they were just lying about it all this time? I could not tell if there was a message to be learned about deceit.
Afterplay was an immersive experience for me. My sense of time slowed – I felt cut off from the bustling 23rd street just feet above me. I needed to know more about these people, but obviously I couldn’t at the time. As I left the theatre, the story lingered in my mind, but that was about it. The immersion ended pretty abruptly. Some plays leave me with powerful moral impacts, or bugging questions. Afterplay was kind of the opposite, in that I left feeling like I just had coffee with a friend, and my mind was already moving to the next thing.