Sunday, May 30, 2010
Salt for the Dead: ‘Passions’ by Denis Emorine
article by Michael T. Steffen
Sometimes while watching or reading drama we’re struck by an insight, however subjective, that the theatre the author is presenting to us is the theatre of our own mind. The notion was impressed convincingly upon me once as I read ‘Othello’ and realized that Iago was not an actor of acts, but a protagonist, in the true sense of the word, of the tragic hero’s passions. That is, Iago is the powerful agent of Doubt within Othello’s own psyche.
It’s interesting that Denis Emorine’s one-act monodrama ‘Passions’ (released earlier this year by Červená Barva Press) so deftly evokes this sense of isolated inner psychology, though unusually the drama of ‘Passions’ takes place in the wake of a personal crisis or tragedy, and the tables are turned. The protagonist, Frank, now has nothing to say. He lies on a bed motionless and speechless throughout the short play. Frederick, we gather from his bitter and plaintive monologue, has been the victim of a conspiracy (just what we are not told specifically) which Frank and another referred to as George have played out on him.
This whole displacement of focus from the acts that build to a climax, to the worded invective after, makes a good point in its demonstration of the destructive senseless gestures of regret and spite. We sense throughout the first half of the act that Frederick’s wounded pride is fruitless. He can’t even evoke the events of Frank and George’s treachery, and we suspect moreover, because of this lack of details, that Frederick in fact has no case whatsoever, that he is suffering from delusions.
A further and more poignant point made by ‘Passions’ comes to our awareness when the insularity of the drama is disrupted toward the end of the play by the sound of footsteps rushing to the door outside the room. Here Frederick must realize that he has only deepened his own dilemma by elaborating his grief against his companion. Threatened by the arrival of a soldier, Frederick’s roaring indignation is deflated. He is again frightened and pleading for Frank to help him. At this moment Frank’s unresponsiveness grows haunted and meaningful.
Emorine’s vision operates in terms of shadows and impulses, at the vanities of the essential soul, revealing his subjects unflinchingly at precisely their weakest, at the waste of their own worst powers. In its modest format of a chapbook, ‘Passions’ lurks with dark energy under the surface and filter of our all too frail human confidence.
‘Passions’ by Denis Emorine
published by Červená Barva Press
P.O. Box 440357
W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222
is sold for $7