POST: Frigid Festival's 'Help Me Out Here' - the meaninglessness of life
What's it about?
Help Me Out Here is a brief play that tries to make sense of the meaninglessness of life through harsh words and an IKEA chair.
What'd I experience?
I’ve been here before.
I already know where to go, where to sit, where the bar should be but isn’t.
Flipping through the Frigid Festival catalogue, I feel like I’m at a bad party. Everyone else in the small audience, except for the guy in my row taking up three seats by himself, seems to know someone else here. They chatter loudly to each other about mundane things neither of them actually cares about like what they’ve been up to since college or what jobs they’re currently considering. I sit alone swiping through my calendar on my phone. If I were to talk to someone right now, which chunk of my meaninglessly busy days would I tell them about just so I would have something to say?
When the lights finally dim I am relieved that I don’t have to say anything to anyone and that no one has to say anything to me.
Out onto the stage comes a woman, holding a glass and a bottle of wine. She cuts open an oddly shaped cardboard box that lies on the ground. It is an unassembled IKEA chair. Next comes a man, also equipped with a bottle of wine. He sits down at a desk and starts writing. It is clear to me from the start that this man has potential to be a total dick. I don’t know if it's because his hair brings to mind the word “coiffed” or because his jaw is sharp and gleaming, but I can tell he’s about to spew some negative bullshit. The woman, on the other hand, seems like someone I'd be friends with, maybe. She is having trouble following the assembly instructions for the chair, but she is patient and calm.
The man sits at his desk ignoring texts from the woman asking him to bring over a screwdriver so she can assemble the chair. Instead he talks about that moment when you stare at a blank piece of paper hour after hour and, not knowing how to properly articulate your thoughts, all you can write is the word “dipshit” over and over, because that’s what your lack of productivity makes you, a dipshit.
As he ignores the girl’s texts, the man explains that his relationships with other people have never lasted very long. He depicts going to a friend’s party, where his first thought about the host upon seeing the size of the party is, “I didn’t know this many people liked her!” To complement his social etiquette, the man makes an insightful analogy that makes it easy to see why his relationships with people are so brief: “People are like underwear: when they get shitty, you throw them away.” I’m not sure who he’s calling underwear, but I have a feeling that he is probably the shittiest one, intentionally or not.
While on one side of the stage the woman struggles with her chair, the man struggles with finding happiness and meaning in life on the other side. Soon they both fall asleep, she, frustrated with her unfinished chair, and he, with his unfulfilled life. Morning comes and an alarm goes off. A radio station plays ominously through the theatre. The fictional DJ, in his overly enthusiastic salesman voice, says something along the lines of my own morning mantra: “Don’t want to deal with life? You don’t have to! Just stay in bed. Forever!”
Both of them wake up and something seems to be different in the man’s face, he seems more confused and less whiny. With her texts still unanswered, the woman finally calls the man. He actually picks up. She asks him to come over and help with the chair. He is visibly reluctant, but assures her that he’ll be right over. He goes over to her side of the stage and together, they assemble the chair in just minutes. When all is done, she asks, finishing the last of her wine, “Now what?” to which he responds, “I don’t know.” The lights dim again.
As the actors take their final bows, I am left wondering if the show was supposed to make me feel more or less hopeful about the meaninglessness of my own life. I feel that it was meant primarily to make me feel shitty. But I don’t want to feel shitty right now, so, as I walk down St. Mark’s with rain drops wetting my face, I decide that all I’ll take from this show is this: sometimes it's enough to just go from fuck everything to I don’t know.