What’s the difference between watching a seance on a stage and watching a seance in “real” life?
Both “versions” are scripted rituals, enacted live and in person in a shared space, going through the exact same motions, even down to the same spoken words.
There’s a performance element to all of it, yet also a true belief in a potentially spiritual outcome.
This is one of my favorite aspects of theater: the slithery relationship between live performance and reality. Real life is obviously unfolding on stage before you — those are real people, who are really doing what they appear to be doing, even if they’re “pretending” at the same time; they’re still actually doing what you see them doing, mere feet away.
And here’s the thing about real life: it can’t always be perfectly contained nor perfectly controlled, even in a performance setting.
Camp Siegfried, recently at Second Stage, reveled in this fact of fictional staging to flesh out its thematic points.
Did anyone else notice how many “real” activities the two actors perform on stage? Building the bridge/dock, chopping the wood, archery; their physical tussle wrestles mere feet away from the seated audience, with no barrier between “stage” space and the “audience’s” space.
Are all of these physical acts rehearsed and hopefully perfectly contained? I mean, you’d hope? But the actors are actually going through these tasks, physically, right there in front of you.
And, at my performance, a wood chip flew alarmingly close to the lip of the stage.
Might it have been by design? Of course. You’d imagine safety protocols are tip-top, and any perceived pushing of this safety envelope is part of the illusion?
But, like…how can we be sure? It’s actually happening right there in front of you, and live performance can never be perfectly controlled.
Which is the play’s perspective on the radicalization of youth.
Both of these young’uns — like most adolescents — observe adults, and then try on their behavior for size when they face “maturer” situations like their first summer lovin’ herein.
But what if those adults are literal Nazis, as here? And what if these kids are at a Nazi boot camp on Long Island? If a teenager pretends to be a certain type of adult for long enough, they just become that adult, in reality.
As we’ve already experienced with the “staged” physical acts, a performance can easily give way to a dangerous reality.