Theatre Du Jour and DC Arts Center collaborate to bring us Peter Handke’s Self Accusation! In the DC Arts Center itself, this simple blackbox builds an auditory atmosphere all abuzz in preparation for the big night. Considering that it was 10 minutes before the performance, and I was the only audience member there, it became more a portent than anything else, only to be worsened when another man arrived, and I wondered if his ‘hurumphing’ (really, he did) was in fact a part of the show. As luck did have it, the signal was wrong, and the piece, once it began evolved into a smart forty minute foray into semiotics in the summertime.
We are presented with two performers in grey who look back on their lives, and as it’s repeated to us, the two are stripped of personal identity. To my left stands a female Kris Roth holding a silver suitcase and to my right a male Jerry Herbilla, who seemed in demeanor to be channeling Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore, also holding a silver suitcase. They begin talking, quickly. The two inundate us with identical text of their upbringing: how they perceived the world, and more importantly how they “indicated the indicated objects”
There is a neutrality embodied by both performances dictated by the text and director that results in movements, interaction, and intonation both thought through and solid, but never entering the world of excellent. And I cannot decide whether that was part of the aesthetic picture being created or if it was simply fuzzy decision making on the part of the production. What I can say is that moments became, for better or worse, diluted.
So far, this all sounds mind numbing, yes? And in some ways, that is the point of Handke and this production, but also the point, is that numbing in process and product is not without it’s charm. And in the hands of director B. Stanley this text meets adroit performances, highlighting that how we overlap as humans is not in our mutual liking of things, but in a similar perception of this same object. For example, it’s not just that people adore the film The Dark Knight, but that under that umbrella Heath Ledger’s performance is looked on with reverence.
Of course, hindsight, personal or not, endows itself to regret, and, boy oh boy, as these two characters don themselves in bold red accessories, does that ever come forth, as the text itself splits in two. There were many tasks that each could not complete in life; samples from that catalogue of failure, which we all have somewhere, include that the female could not “find God in every begger” and the male “mistook love for instincts.” And what saves them? What saves us as we sat there? Why the fact that it’s all just a play…Such a conclusion provides comfort to only the actors, and we the audience are only left with our own imperceptibly distinct (mis)perceptions of the world.