(left to right) Diana Shields, Jordann Zbylski, Alexander Karavay, Ali Cesur, Serena Dolinsky, Brenann Stacker. Photo by James Cooper.

RED SAND review @ Santa Monica Playhouse

October 12, 2017

Red Sand is an extremely experimental work which quite simply misses the mark. Ignoring its positive attributes, which can easily be found in the incredible performing stamina of the actors and the highly laudable sound mixing for which the performance demanded, this is an inchoate medley of emotional representation that amounts to, at best, an expansively open-ended subjective interpretation which voids any currency it carries. At worst, it is a spend-thrift meditation on the consummation of negativity within the human condition, for which no high art ought to set its final target as.

 

Tragedy, which we can define as the dramatic element of the experience of human impotency in the world against its creative agency and desires, is necessarily dialectical to raise man’s spirits higher. This is not to argue for happy endings, as clearly this is absent in Athenian drama, the very birthplace to which all Western dramatic arts owes itself to. But it is to argue that destitution and despondency must provide a sense of relief, as I mentioned in my essay On the Necessity of Colors in the Fine Arts when discussing Picasso’s Guernica:

 

Picasso brings downward to the mortal realm a beautiful light to help relieve his fellow man’s grief. Relief suggests calming and relaxing and harmony; etymologically to raise up; we can imagine this rise to the point of equilibrium, i.e. peace. Now compare this objective with the political commentary of artwork which riles, i.e. disturbs, and we see the polarity.

 

 

This tranquility brought through the dramatic and hence over-exaggerated representation of humanity’s condition is ultimately life-affirming. It allows an audience, and consequently a society, to share in struggling against the eternal imperviousness of the world as an insignificant cosmic contingency that is being human, but to remain defiant in the cause. Not to whimper and cry foul, but to take any victory as worthy of a celebration. This is categorically a world-historical aristocratic valuation of being human, and ought to be pedagogical to avoid an incessant castigation at life being unfair to the moral judgment of the human subject. Acceptance of the brute fact of being virtually subservient, not simply to the “world” but to Nature and Her design, leads to a morality on how to best move forward in life with a perennially high obstacle always ahead that must be overcome. And this morality, again, takes tragedy and fashions it as a component of a life worth living, and furthermore celebrating.

 

Red Sand then, is an exhibition of the worst of being human. It performs deceit, envy, theatrically-staged rape, and mass murder (twice), and even interpretatively a condemnation of the seasons which change beyond the control of man! And for what reason? The playbill explains, “[Red Sand] follows emotional logic, not linear thinking, so we encourage you to let your senses go with the flow and allow whatever happens to happen.” – are we to respond to an artwork which is self-admittedly irrational like an animal would? If so, then we are stranded in a swamp of emotional sewage. Who rightfully subjects their spirit to such mindless torment as an act of edification? I can think of a salvific religion in particular which has adherents self-flagellate, but this is an indictment of the thorough anti-humanism of the long-winded senselessness of the performance.

 

The performance tries very hard to be an evolutionary dramatic work, but because its heart is corrupted with poisonous blood it cannot pulsate anything redemptive. By metaphorical comparison, chemotherapy promises through poisoning its patient healing will take place. But this is not the case here. The laughter in the audience at the violent bursting of an innocent girl’s red balloon is telling of the behavior the play promotes. But please, see the play for yourself and leave the theatre as I did, the moment you realize the chronological ordering of the “vignettes” is meaningless and yet another celebration of anti-rational, anti-humanistic, gibberish.

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