What's it about?
That's a good question. So much happened in such a short span of time. But if I had to sum it up, I'd say The Glory of the World is about what would be the deceased Thomas Merton's 100th birthday celebration. And who's Thomas Merton? Apparently he's a real guy, or was a real guy. He's described on Wikipedia as an "American Catholic writer and mystic." What does all that mean?
What did I experience?
What. Just. Happened.
These were the words running through my head as I applauded for the cast of The Glory of the World.
Let me share with you what I observed.
The show opened with a man sitting at a table facing away from us (the audience), just sitting there, he wasn't doing or saying anything. This went on for long enough that I started to exchange confused looks with other audience members. Then a projection appeared on the wall the man was facing: the words, "Listen, it's raining" followed by other phrases that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. The man didn't move an inch, and new projections kept appearing and disappearing. I wondered if this was the play. It seemed to me like more of an art installation, something you'd see at MoMA.
Right when I was ready for something new, a garage door opened and something like 10 guys came out singing happy birthday. As this happened, the man who had been sitting at the table for so long got up and left the stage. I didn't exactly miss his presence. Sorry man.
The men proceeded to take turns proposing toasts to the late Thomas Merton. This man was so many things in his lifetime, that the men were unable to agree on what to toast to. There were toasts to Thomas Merton the writer, Thomas Merton the mystic, Thomas Merton the Buddhist, Thomas Merton the Catholic, Thomas Merton the Communist. The list goes on. The toasting was broken up by the men quoting a variety of people, from great thinkers and philosophers to authors, actors, and song writers.
Then the men paired up and were kissing each other while dancing, forehead to forehead. Whenever one man tried to put his hands on the other, he was stopped.
Then there was more toasting and one of the guys carried out Thomas Merton's birthday gift. He opened the box and took out a medium sized remote control helicopter and flew it around the stage! I kept wanting him to fly it over the audience, but although he came close, he never did.
The men then engaged in what I can only describe as a flex-off. Dudes were ripping their shirts off left and right and parading around their muscles and biceps. I was laughing, because it was hilarious to watch.
The men began to fight each other and destroy the stage. At some point in the middle of this extended fight sequence, a fake Rhino (made up by two actors) was led across the performance space. By the end of it all, the stage resembled a stereotypical frat house, post-party. There were red cups and papers scattered about the floor, overturned easy-chairs, utter chaos.
The garage door opened while the men exited the stage, returning to where they were at the start of the show, and then closed once again. The silent man from the beginning made an appearance, but this time he sat in a chair facing us directly. Many questions were projected onto the wall behind him, and I felt like they were being presented to me personally. "What is the question?" "Oblivion or salvation?" "What is taken seriously?"
I couldn't even begin to contemplate the answers to these questions.
But one question that stuck out to me:
"Does the silence scare you?"
Yes, it does.