This play might help you feel better.
If you’re anything like me, you’re in constant awe of people who can just, like, talk to other people. What in God’s name is that like– do these confident freaks visualize the course of conversations they’re about to spark? If so, are they not certain that every possible human interaction ends with somebody yelling at them because they suck so bad?
Because that’d be wild. Imagine: having the social wherewithal to go “uh,” when a waiter puts food you didn’t order in front of you, as opposed to just smiling beatifically and convincing yourself that this wrong food will probably still be good and if it isn’t, well then that’s your fault somehow. Jesus Christ, can these people just, just like, talk? On the phone? Can they just do that?
For myself and a lot of other folks, nature, nurture, and mental illness are stacked so haphazardly within us as to engender an all-pervading terror in our heads and our hands, one that puppets us and makes us sick. And despite my propensity for really overdoing it with the figurative language, it’s pretty much impossible to describe. I mean, I can tell you what I’m afraid of– the phone, driving, that maybe I actually haven’t changed that much since high school, that today will finally be the day that my friends realize that I’m boring and inconsiderate, that all my friends will leave me, that maybe I don’t deserve friends as good as the ones I have, potatoes that have gone bad and started Growing the Things— but the why that people demand of me when I refuse to do something or go somewhere, that why is dust. An imperceptible path through teething fauna that somehow leads from “asking the barista for a new cup because the one she gave me is broken” to “my actual death.”
The most frustrating part of these neuroses is their duality– It is, objectively speaking, super funny that I’m refusing to ask this Target employee where the bathrooms are because oh God what if he yells at me for asking where the bathrooms are. Like, the idea of a Target employee whipping around and screaming “WHO do you THINK YOU ARE? Are you a CHILD, you can’t just HOLD IT IN for HALF AN HOUR? Whoops, maybe YOU ARE; you certainly have the HAIRLINE of a NEWBORN.” That rocks, I love that. However, the subjective reality of a world out to ruin you is markedly less funny. It’s exhausting and it doesn’t make me special and it is killing me.
This is where I and many others live: the apology between comedy and tragedy.
One in Four, by Levi Meerovich, is a play where those illogical social fears are actualized and demonstrated. Absolutely positively 100% nothing goes right for anybody, nope, nothing at all. And it’s so so goddamn funny. This is a play in which four incognito aliens end up as roommates on Earth, each one believing the other three to be human; a play in which a shifting and constant slideshow of Danny Devito pics figures prominently; a play in which the first six seconds of the Seinfeld theme song is played no less than three times. And in spite of, or perhaps because of all these things, One in Four makes me feel a lot less pathetic. Because Levi knows that the pull between the funny and the bone-crushingly sad is quintessentially human.
To those who don’t experience the world as I do (and I know that sounds kinda Hot Topic T-Shirt “u dnott understand my DAMAG,” for which I apologize), One in Four is a very very funny demonstration of my social fears. Aliens, reckoning with human bodies and emotions for the first time, manage to slip on whatever banana peel is presented them down to, like, the atomic level: nonchalance gives way to paranoia, friendships curdle instantly, a game of charades becomes exactly as fraught as games of charades will always become. The comedy of extraterrestrial dweebs just beefing it hardcore when they get to Earth illuminates a human tragedy that’s so difficult to explain: the path between an innocuous interaction’s start and the worst possible way it could end.
To those who combat the same things I do, there’s incredible (and hilarious) catharsis in watching four people who are not people try their best to be people. To think that incomprehensibly intelligent life forms would visit Earth and immediately get confused because they swore that they left that door unlocked, and that this confusion gives way to inexplicable and disproportionate terror and rage just as it would for me is incredibly comforting. That an alien tries to apologize for lashing out and ends up scared, mushmouthed, and convinced that they’re going to die in that moment just like I would makes me feel vindicated. It makes me feel not so weird.
It makes me feel like I’m more okay than I think I am.
So please, come check out One in Four. It is very funny. It is only an hour long. It is a pleasure to be involved with. And if you are someone who feels like you’re wrong for the way you think, for the way you process emotion and action, for the way other people make you feel, it might offer comfort. If you, like me, feel as though your psyche is stretched thin between the objective comedy and the subjective horror of your worldview, One in Four might help. It might make you feel just a little bit better.
Dixon Cashwell is a soon-to-be-NY-based actor and writer.
He plays Sid in One in Four.