Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


For years I was familiar with the song “Send In The Clowns” but I never really understood what it meant. Apparently its meaning is quite difficult to get when the song is taken out of context from the magnificent musical, Stephen Soundheim’s A Little Night Music.

I saw the musical for the first time last Sunday at CPR Hall at the RCBC Plaza. The main draw of the Atlantis production is of course Ms. Dawn Zulueta essaying the role of Desiree Armfeldt; she also gets to sing “Send In The Clowns.”

The musical is about three couples, listless with their respective partners. In the course of the play, they mix-and-match with one another. But this isn’t just about love liaisons and the like—the director also said that the play is about “wasting time” (interestingly, it has songs entitled “Now,” “Later,” “Soon,” “Remember,” and “Perpetual Anticipation,” songs that touch on time).

Dawn was surprisingly good, given the lowered expectation one has of screen actors going into theater. But she can carry a tune, and as an actress her skills have blossomed through the years. She looks stunning and radiant, perfect for the part of a theater actress who manages to snag men easily. Nonie Buencamino’s performance is exceptionally disciplined, a true actor who sings in character without being too showy. The play was cast well; no one seems to be a weak link in the show.

But this is not going to be a review of the play; I leave that to professionals like Gibbs Cadiz for that. Instead, I will reflect on particular things from the play that really struck me.

* * * * *

“I’m sorry. I should never have come. To flirt with rescue when one has no intention of being saved…. Do try to forgive me.” (exits)

That particular dialogue happens in the middle of the song “Send In The Clowns.” The song itself is a sad realization of things that can’t be, of hopes being dashed.

Too often I’ve heard of hearts being dashed, simply because they made a mistake of assuming that someone is in need of saving, that the Other is the answer to a “yearning for a coherent existence after years of muddle.” The mistake often lies in the thought that some Other will give coherence to the muddle; reality is, most cases the Other is part of the muddle. Learn to find coherence within you. Only you can rescue yourself.

* * * * *

While most of the lead characters are uptight and neck-deep in ennui, the character of Petra is one who seems happiest. Why? Because she is always busy. She doesn’t waste her time over-thinking things.

She has one solo number, “The Miller’s Son” in which she contemplates on being “trapped” by marriage (at that time, women are expected to marry and bear children). So she sings:

It’s a very short way from the fling that’s for fun
to the thigh pressing under the table;
It’s a very short day ‘til you're stuck with just one,
or it has to be done on the sly;

In the meanwhile—

There are mouths to be kissed
before mouths to be fed.
And there's many a tryst
and there's many a bed.

There's a lot I'll have missed,
but I'll not have been dead when I die!
And a person should celebrate
everything passing by!

More and more I admire people who appreciate what happens in the meanwhile, not being trapped by what was in the past nor enslaved by what they desire in the future. It is in the living of the here and now that we truly live.

I also admire people who just suck the marrow out of life (and I bet they suck more than just marrow, hehehe). But I do also appreciate the value of being responsible for one’s actions and decisions. Hmmm. “Responsible sucking” sounds like a good motto for me.

There is a saying, that Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. I want to add to that a sentiment from another musical, Wicked: Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived—and a dance number to be performed.

Let’s dance.


red the mod said...

A dance, we shall. :)

rudeboy said...

Dancing through life, eh, Joel?

I agree.

There are worse ways to kill time on this mortal coil.