By Elisabeth Beck
When I sat down to watch The Pink Unicorn, I truly had
no idea what to expect. Admittedly, I was skeptical, because I knew that the
show centered heavily on the realities of diverse gender identity in today’s
world, and when it comes to anything controversial or political, I’m exhausted.
It seems that all we hear about these days is that diversity must be
implemented, that it must be accepted and embraced, and if we don’t agree with
someone’s lifestyle, we’re terrible people.
My feelings on most of these subjects boil down to this: if
someone wants to live his or her life a certain way, they should be able to do
that. I just don’t want to hear about it all the time. I feel that I should be
able to say, “That’s not for me, but that’s great for you,” to whatever someone
is proposing—and that should be an acceptable answer. But usually it’s not.
Amy Landis - Photo: Heather Mull
So I wasn’t sure what I was going to watch when I sat down at
Carnegie Stage to watch this show. I was worried that I was just going to watch
a show that lectured on the importance of representation for marginalized groups.
But what The Pink Unicorn projects is something else entirely.
The feeling of approaching the unexpected when attending this
show truly fits in with the political climate in our country. We don’t always
know how to act or what to say around those who are different from us. Many of
us may feel that we want to be accepting and we want to do the right thing—but
we don’t know what that is.
This insecurity is a central theme in the play; the
protagonist, Trish, is a recent widow whose daughter announces that she is
gender queer and would like to start a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance at
her high school in a rural small town in Texas. Trish shares the entire story
with us—complete with pictures of her daughter from a scrapbook—of how she and
her daughter must fight against the higher-ups of the school to get the chapter
installed, how they get rejected by their church and how Trish herself draws a
line in the sand with her Bible-thumping mother. While this may sound like a
story told by a mother who is willing to accept and embrace her daughter’s
lifestyle, Trish’s outlook is one of fear and uncertainty. She feels that same
way many of us may feel. She does not know how to support her daughter because
she’s unsure of the entire situation, even admitting at one point that she
hates diversity because—as I mentioned earlier—she fears that she will do the
wrong thing. Without saying anymore about the specific plot of the play, I will
say that this is theatre at its best, because it made me think of things I
might not have.
Amy Landis - Photo: Heather Mull
I can’t say enough good things about how good Amy
Landis is in her portrayal of Trish. From her accent to her Southern
hospitality to her fierce belief in common decency, Landis disappears into the
role so that as you watch the show, you feel as if this is a true story being
told by a mother who really experienced it, rather than an actress reading
someone’s words. And we might as well believe this story is real—because it
happens every day, to mothers all over the world.
As a Christian who is also a Millennial, I live my life on
borderlines. I’m aware of the realities of the abortion debate. I support gay
marriage because I support human rights—for me they are one in the same. There
is nothing that irritates me more than when Christians use their institution as
a weapon to attack the gay community, pointing to a random passage in the Bible
as evidence for what they’re saying is wrong. The hypocrisy of it, I have
noticed, is that some groups use religion as a platform for hate—when we as
Christians are always taught that it’s not for us to judge whether or not
someone gets to stay or leave. Whether or not someone is good or bad is not our
call to make, so it shouldn’t make a difference to us when we decide how we’re
going to treat that person.
Being a good person in the world is about being decent, not
The Pink Unicorn reminds us of this very fact. In the
end, I was left with an impression that an issue we often find confusing is
actually quite simple. We may not always know what to say or how to act. But
just because we don’t understand something completely does not mean that we
cannot or should not advocate and protect people who are different from us. It
doesn’t mean that we can’t fight for what’s fair and decent.
by Elizabeth Beck - Senior RMU
Sarah Silk - Alec Silberblatt
Photo: Heather Mull
The first thing I thought when the lights came up at the end of the show was: That was an insane amount of words. This may not have been the most articulate thing to say, but ironically, Off the Wall’s latest opening, Lungs, is extremely eloquent.
I think the most mind-blowing part of this play is the mastery with which the two actors deliver the dialogue. It’s what keeps Lungs moving along, and in a ninety-minute show with absolutely no stopping and no obvious transitions, this is crucial. The sheer amount of words spoken throughout the play is astounding; the entire time, I was astonished at the fact that Sarah Silk, who beautifully portrays the complicated and endearing woman, had memorized it all. Watching Lungs, I felt as if I were stuck watching an impossibly long, circular argument that seems to be going somewhere—but as audience members, we can never be too sure where that “somewhere” is. The way that Silk and Alec Silberblatt portray their characters is the main reason behind this; I felt like I was watching a real couple argue in real time. Their chemistry plays a major role in the play’s believability. They have real concerns and real issues within their relationship, and it’s very intriguing and engaging to watch on stage.
We can all see bits and pieces of ourselves in these two characters—the insecurities of adulthood, the fragile (lack of) assurance in young relationships, the worrying about the problems of the world, and most of all, the fear that we cannot do what we believe we are meant to do, which is procreate and successfully raise another human being. I certainly saw a lot of myself in the woman in the show, but surprisingly, I identified with the man as well. The fact that the two characters transcend individual experiences, speaking to a much larger, collective reality, is a testament to just how good Silk and Silberblatt are in this show.
For a lot of the play, Silk’s character dominates the conversation. She talks in circles, at about 90 miles-per-hour, and with a cadence that makes you feel like she’s thinking out loud. It’s very believable (and unbelievable that she pulls it off so convincingly). Because of the female character’s volume, it’s hard to see the man in the relationship at first, but when he does come to the forefront, it’s impossible not to notice his struggle. Silberblatt delivers a very honest, relatable performance. At one point, when the woman is asleep, he opens up in a monologue about his inability to speak up in the relationship because he doesn’t know how to respond. That moment is so real and vulnerable, and I felt that in a lot of ways it was the highlight of the show. It reminds the audience that, while this man is in a relationship with a complicated and chaotic partner, it’s not that he’s being chivalrous by letting her talk—it’s that he doesn’t know how to voice his opinion. It also speaks volumes to the fragility of politics around female reproductive health. We put a lot of stress on the woman’s role in childbearing and, most of the time, the father fades to the background. But the man in Lungs will not be forgotten; he’s in the trenches just as fiercely as his girlfriend—and Silberblatt delivers it so skillfully.
But honestly, what I really liked—and related to most strongly—was the content of Lungs. This show really reaches out to the “baby-making generation,” i.e. the twenty and thirty-somethings that feel pressure from society’s expectations to marry and procreate because they’re of a certain age and that’s “just what people do." It’s easy for the older generations, the would-be grandparents, to pressure this age group to have kids, because when the baby-boomers had kids, the world was a little less scary than it is now. As millennials, we face a world that seems all too crowded with social and cultural issues. Everywhere we turn, there is a war, a protest, a new disease, and—as is one of the prominent issues in this play—a dying planet. Most of us don’t want to say it, but Lungs does: maybe it’s not the best idea to have kids.
I think Lungs is a play for everyone, regardless of age, demographic, culture, gender, or whatever else you’d like to insert. Because it’s just so damn relevant.
Lungs by Duncan Macmillan
Performances: Dec. 2–3,
8–10, 15–17 @ 8:00
Dec. 4 & 11, 2016 @ 3:00
Dec. 2–3, 8–10, 15–17 pmA play by
British playwright Duncan MacMillan.
Spencer WhaleWith: Sarah Silk & Alec
stage, no scenery, no furniture, no props,
changes but infinite possibilities.
LUNGS is a smart and funny drama that follows a
couple through the surprising lifecycle of their relationship, as they grapple
with questions of family and change, hope, betrayal, happenstance, and the
terrible pain that you can only cause the people you love.
Macmillan's distinctive, off-kilter love story is brutally honest, funny, edgy
and current. It gives voice to a generation for whom uncertainty is a way of
life through two flawed, but deeply human, people who you don't always like but
start to feel you might love." the guardian,