Someone wonderful gave me this play and I am so happy that I read it - I was not familiar with Callaghan's work before now and I can't wait to read more of her stuff. This play is beautiful and sexy, creative and smart. The best thing I've read in weeks. Did anyone see it when it was at the Women's Project?
The story focuses on a pair of ex-lovers: August, a one-time radical activist who ran away from the US and now spends his days radicalizing wine-making and living with his new Greek wife, and Liza, who has searched and finally found him, but who comes bearing a secret.
They meet again.
They discover some things have changed. Others have not.
August is now making wine. He'd like to teach Liza.
August: Are you as self-absorbed?
Liza: You can't tell?
August: Then you will learn a lot, for fear of being made a fool.
The relationship between the two is ripe (wine pun intended) with sexual tension. Daphne, August's wife, can sense this. It makes her uncomfortable, and yet she tries to be supportive of her husband. She deals with the threat by raising her game:
Old love makes the ground beneath you slick. I understand this. I could sparkle for you now, if you like. I will become a holiday. I will decorate myself with twinkle lights and sing a song about a man who buries his heart in the dirt and later eats the dirt to remember how the heart tasted.
Callaghan has passed on her gift of storytelling to her characters. At one point August and Daphne reward Liza with a legend.
Daphne: Legend one. Young Dionysus, son of Zeus and of Semele, traveled one day to the island of Naxos---
August: --where he saw a plant so beautiful and frail he wanted it all for himself. He teased it from the earth and laid it gently inside the bone of a bird to keep it alive--
Daphne: --but the plant grew so fast its roots shot from both ends of the bone. So--
August: --Dionysus found a lion's bone, and stuck the plant and the bird's bone inside that. But--
Daphne: --the plant continued to grow, so Dionysus found an ass's bone, into which he placed the roots and the bird's bone and the lion's bone. He--
August: --went home, dug a big hole, and buried the whole tangled mess into the earth. The plant--
Daphne: --grew into a grand vine and yielded magnificent grapes, and Dionysus made wine from those grapes. He gave--
August: --the wine to his men to drink. At first, they sang like birds. They drank more and they became as strong as lions. And then--
Daphne: --they drank too much and their heads drooped and they became as stupid as asses.
This whole play feels gritty, like you can taste the earth, smell the wine, feel the stones beneath your feet. It's a play full of texture and depth. Though August is talking of wine, I feel the same could be applied to reading this play:
August: See how clear the moon is through the wine?
August: That's a very very good sign.
Liza: Of what?
August: That your mind is about to be blown.
Tomorrow's Play: Dutchman by LeRoi Jones, aka Amiri Baraka