Saturday, November 15, 2008

Theater and Saturn Returns by Barbara Quinn

Saturday night I went to see Saturn Returns, a new play by Noah Haidle. What a fascinating exploration of age and life. The play is set in a living room in Grand Rapids, Michigan and takes place in 2008, 1978, and 1948, moving back and forth seamlessly to explore how an elderly man arrived at his final days.

Luckily, the notes in the playbill explained: “The planet Saturn completes its orbit roughly every 29.5 years. When it returns to the same position it occupied at the time of a person’s birth, this is called a ‘Saturn Return’. In astrology Saturn is associated with three crucial turning points in a person’s life: first at 27-30 years of age, then around 58-60, and the third and usually final time around 86-88. “

And so we embarked on our journey of discovery about this 88 year old’s three “Saturn Returns”. There was no intermission and time flew. We saw the play in the Mitzi Newhouse theater, a small theater - it seats 299 - that’s part of Lincoln Center. The theater is set almost completely in the round and no matter where you sit you are practically next to the performers and the stage. It’s theater at its best for me.

This play was artful on so many levels: taut structure, witty dialog, emotional ups and downs. One actress played three women in the 88 year old man’s life: his wife when he was young, his daughter when he was in middle-age, and his nurse when he was elderly. Three men played the man at the different ages.

Afterwards, my husband and I were energized and we were still talking about the play the next day. We’d had a rough week and the play managed to wipe it all away and leave us in a much better frame of mind. Its universal themes of loss and love put things in perspective. The amazing pre-theater dinner we had at Josephina’s didn’t hurt either!

I’m grateful that I belong to the Lincoln Center Theater Club, and grateful that we can drive in to see excellent shows. And most of all, I’m grateful that there are young playwrights like Noah Haidle who are wise beyond their years, and who are showing the way and shedding light on the path.


Patresa Hartman said...

sounds really good. and how FASCINATING about the saturn returns! i'd neer heard that. now i want to know more.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Ohhh, I am going to read about Saturn Returns! I love that - as P said, FACINATING! right up my dang alley!

Rog is now in Last Night of Ballyhoo - we love our local Hart Theater!

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