Entering the mezzanine section, I saw “PIPPIN” in bold letters, spread across a gray curtain. I took in the atmosphere: festive. Colorful string pennants were going from the top of the curtains to above the audience. The show started with a bang: acrobats all over the stage, confetti flying around, and the stage lights changed patterns every other minute; it all brought on such polychromatic joy. It was radiant, literally. Pippin is a prince, who has everything he could possibly want... except passion. He wants to find something that will fulfill him. He tries everything: fighting in war, sex, music, religion, love. However, none of this makes him feel any more alive.
The performance is hosted by someone I call Pippin’s subconscious, she is not given a name but called the Leading Player. She is sassy, she is dressed in all black, and most importantly, she is in control. She leads Pippin through the show, making him try new things and helping him realize that nothing he does ever fulfills him.
Throughout the whole show something felt wrong to me. Everything Pippin said and did felt too familiar, redundant even. It was not until the end of the show, the very last minute, when I realized what Pippin was making me think about: depression.
I came to this conclusion when Pippin’s subconscious led him to the “last act”. This whole time she has been planning a grande finale for her circus. She wants Pippin to jump into a circle of fire. Basically, suicide.
Alright, let’s rewind.
I felt like the whole show was about someone who was depressed. Pippin tries to color his vision with glamor and light and that may or may not be through alcohol or drugs.
He keeps trying to find something that will interest him and make him feel like his life is worth while but when nothing seems like it is enough to keep him going, his inner voice says ‘why not just kill yourself, at least that will mean something.’
However, right before his last act he decides to shut his subconscious out and not take the plunge. His subconscious is mad. Her final and ultimate sense of being could not come to reality.
As he wakes from the alternate world he allowed his subconscious to create, shimmering clothes are ripped off, the lights are stopped, and the music ceases. His subconscious is gone and so is everything that was glamorous, all that is left is the darkness. This, to me, was a powerful scene. I came into this show mesmerized by the colors. The way the dancers took that color and spun it onto the stage, and with the view my mezzanine seat gave me I felt like I saw the stage lights dancing and spinning along too. Suddenly all the glamour was gone. And this was the best part. This was the most real.
I feel like this darkness is what he was trying to escape the whole time. Everything in the circus was magnificent, and he wanted to be a part of that magnificence. However, living a life so glamorous can be unrealistic, and this is why he was always unhappy. His expectations for life were too high, polychromatic, when life is actually the dark and boring place he is left with at the end.
But he’s okay. He realizes the world may be shit, but he will survive.
He realizes that life is not about grandness coming to you, life is about enjoying the tiny moments. It is about being able to find something to smile about; and that requires work. Pippins’ problem was that happiness and fulfillment did not find him. He realizes in the end that happiness is something you need to both sacrifice and work for.
I loved that.
I definitely could relate to Pippin, unable to find happiness because I expect life to be like the way I see it in TV. As I walked home after the play I began to notice the little things; the person who sells candy in the subway gave me free m&m’s, the A train arrives as soon as I stepped onto the platform, and my mother called to ask how I was doing and that she would drop food off for me the following afternoon.
At first, none of those things seem to amount to much in the long run, but by allowing myself to smile or be happy for just a moment because of those things, I’ll be a little bit better off. Right?