Invisible Man

On Friday night I went with my friend Danya to see a production of Invisible Man at the Studio Theatre.  I had gone into it with fairly high expectations:  The book on which the play is based is wideley celebrated; one of those “must reads” in high school English classes that I somehow managed to graduate without reading.  And the play itself had gotten good reviews. 

But I was bored.  SO BORED.  For three hours I watched the actors move about on stage giving what seemed to be perfectly fine performances of a script that was clearly meant to stir the audience — and I felt nothing at all.  Zero emotional connection or response to play.  I just wanted it to end so I could go home and go to bed.

That’s an unusual reaction for me at the theatre.  I go to the theater a lot, normally I’m able to connect on some level to the story and message of whatever play I’m seeing.  Part of the problem here, I think, was the fact that it was heavy material (race issues, identity, etc.) in very long form (three hours) on a Friday night after work (I was very tired).  But I also think that I just didn’t care.  There were times in the past (notably in college) when the themes presented in this play were captivating, challenging and moving.  At the risk of sounding overly cavalier, I admit that my attentions and energies have shifted.  I feel a little like I’ve “been there, done that.”  Not that the themes are not relevant to today’s society, or that all of the problems of race relations in the United States have been resolved (heavens, when you live in a city like DC you know that’s not true), but I’m less interested than I was before in spending my leisure time consuming art that grapples with those issues.  It’s kind of like World War II and the Holocaust — I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in DC, I’ve visited sites in Europe, I’ve read books and watched movies and plays, and I feel like I’ve reached a certain saturation point where I just don’t want to see any more.  There doesn’t seem to be anything more to say.

Part of me thinks this is bad.  As a right-thinking person I should never tire of engaging with the challenging issues of history and contemporary society.  To say I’ve had my fill must be a reflection of my position of privilege; my status as the oppressor.  Maybe.

The other part of me thinks it’s fine.  It’s just life.  You grow and you learn and you care and you don’t, and you realize that there’s so much in this world that to care about and learn about and grow into or from that you just can’t do it all at all times.  And so you acknowledge that there’s a season for everything — including dormant seasons when you focus on something else.  Such as when the play will be over so you can go home and go to bed.

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