William Richardson, a 28-year-old local actor and choreographer, had a such a fantastic experience with CLEARING BOMBS that we asked him to share his thoughts here.
Kirt Bateman, Mark Fossen and Jay Perry are phenomenal in Eric Samuelsen’s CLEARING BOMBS at Plan-B Theatre! I haven’t been able to stop talking about it. Thought-provoking and haunting, I think it’s an important new work. Make sure you don’t miss it – cuz I wanna talk with you about it!
I remember trying to memorize parts of the discussion while watching CLEARING BOMBS. Tapping my head, pounding in certain turns of phrase, points made on each side of an argument trying to figure out what led to, and more, what happens after World War II. But it was like holding water, flowing through new points made or other phrases turned, and after a moment I couldn’t hold on to any one thing lest I lose the conversation. I sat straighter in my seat, I leaned forward and found myself audibly responding to what was happening in this hypothetical conversation between economists John Maynard Keyes (Mark Fossen) and Friedrich Hayek (Jay Perry). At times the deliberation seemed to be officiated by, and at times to be completely over the head of our everyman, Mr. Bowles (Kirt Bateman). I saw other members of the audience throw their hands up in exasperation, I saw people nodding or shaking their heads, I heard laughter at times and sometimes when I didn’t, I laughed anyway. Thinking of how to respond, and after much discussion on a myriad of topics presented, not only after the show, but later that afternoon and the next day, I was still trying to pinpoint what exactly was the story, what it was that had me so moved.
These men, waiting for bombings on a roof at Cambridge, propose to enlighten Mr. Bowles on how economics affects everything, including leading them to that rooftop and all five of his children to service in the war. After agreeing on a few points, the economists begin to spar. Should a sluggish, post-Depression economy be stimulated or be left to the will of the Invisible Hand? Do prices reflect how we value things naturally or are they set by supply and demand? Do people have the freedom they think they do or are they carrying out the will of the ‘planners?’ And aside from all that, what do all of these theories mean to Mr. Bowles and his family?
At one point, Hayek picked up a handful of sand in a bucket. It gave a sharp clarity to the danger that these men found themselves. They had to be ready for concussive blasts, to fight fires and protect the children who were sheltered in King’s College. They heard planes pass by, and listened silently, gravely. To break the gloom, they would delve into their discussion even further. They were nervous, they were trying to explain what was happening, trying to defend the tenets that they reasoned beneficial and detract what they found detrimental. They were rationalizing their place in the world. They were filling the silence, trying to find meaning, possibly a comfort in their time spent hiding, waiting.
There were two things going on for me. The first was the passion that these dialogues brought out in me, causing me to sound my opinion on everything from economics, politics and world power to moral determinism, accountability and agency. The second was the very human drama of these men coming together, halting their deliberations in a grim complicity when faced with their mortality. But what was it about?
Like all good stories, Eric Samuelson’s Clearing Bombs holds a mirror and prompts a discussion of the state in which we currently find ourselves. The economists argue with fervor and logic, but it seems to disintegrate into drawing lines in the sand and name-calling. While our event horizon is not as immediate as waiting to be blown up within the hour, how much this dialogue seemed to parallel our rhetoric today impressed me greatly. Many of the conversations the play inspired led me through hoops and hurdles of circular logic. And it made me wonder. Maybe the story was simpler. Maybe, like these men, we are all passing time, wildly improvising, placing blame and clearing our conscience to the collective, waiting to be clear of bombs.
Plan-B Theatre’s #SeasonOfEric continues with Eric Samuelsen’s CLEARING BOMBS, running through March 2, 2014, featuring Kirt Bateman, Mark Fossen and Jay Perry, directed by Eric Samuelsen. Click here for tickets and more info.