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The emperor has nothing to say: “Spades” by Robert Lepage

My fellow theatre-goers are still in the theatre, while I’m already at home writing to you. I just walked out of Robert Lepage’s “Spades.” Three hours without an intermission, so that means there’s still ten minutes to go. I don’t understand. The man has an incredible imagination, there’s no doubt about that. He knows how to do magic tricks on stage, this time with a phenomenal set like a spaceship with bits all over the place that rise and fall – we’re in a casino, we’re in a tent in the desert, we’re in a swimming pool, all evocatively portrayed by this amazing set. The actors, too, incredible, playing myriad roles.

So why am I here and not there? Because to me, this play is saying nothing. At least, nothing I don’t know. It’s saying lots of important things: war is hell, war is about power and control, and being a gay soldier makes things worse. Gambling is addictive and destructive. Being an illegal worker in the States is harsh if you’re sick. Hmmm, what else? Things whiz by about string theory and George Bush as a villain – I’m okay with that. But all of that flash and dazzle – all those doors rising up out of nowhere, just so someone can knock on them and then they vanish again – in aid of a script that says absolutely nothing we don’t know. This is a play about a very clever set and the director’s very clever use of it. And I say phooey.

Some of the reviewers are saying this is a simple show in comparison with Lepage’s others. Simple! Pity the poor stage manager, there must be a thousand cues or more. Cue door rising, door falling, cue smoke for the swimming pool. There’s one brief scene where the illegal maid is having a meal and arguing with a co-worker; for that tiny scene, tables were put up, chairs, a huge counter covered with real food – insane. I remember the first time I saw this man’s work and was stunned – the fluidity and inventiveness of his staging was breathtaking. But it was in aid of saying something. I’d rather imagine a door and hear words that feed my soul.

$65, to see a set. Sometimes I think it would be better not to have such a critical mind – I’d be happier. But dumber. Well, at least I saw one Luminato show. The show I should have seen, I couldn’t get a ticket for – the tribute Friday night to Kate McGarrigle. By the time my life settled enough that I realized I wanted to go, it was sold out. It sounds wonderful, including not only her family but Emmylou Harris, Bruce Cockburn, Peggy Seeger and others. My kind of show – saying something about music and joy and a full, rich life.

It’s Father’s Day, and the baby boy is with his mother and his father. Happy day to them all. I’m at home, muttering to myself about sound and fury signifying nothing. Time for a glass of wine. Oh yes – alcoholism is not good for you, the play says that too.

If any of you who’ve seen it disagree with me, please let me know. I’d love to hear why – convince me. And please – tell me how it ends. In a minute or less.

P.S. And then my basement tenant called to say she’d just got home to find water dripping through her ceiling and soaking the rug. Water water always with the water in my life – one disaster after another. This one wasn’t as drastic as others – the tube that connects the ice-maker in my fridge to the water pipes under the sink had developed a hole and was spraying everywhere. Luckily, my handyman John was home and he talked me through turning off the connection. Half an hour of mopping up.

Back to work.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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