What of This Play?
43.1 million people—13.5%—in the United States live in poverty; 19.4 million—6%— in deep poverty. Expand to a world scope and 80%, more than 5 billion people, live on less than $10 a day.
Let that sink in.
There exists a war on sexuality, gender, identity, and sex itself. Race and class divide us for the stupidest of reasons. Access to healthcare, food, shelter, and water are debated as if one can’t decide between the steak tartar and the roasted duck.
It’s also three minutes to midnight—the closest it’s been since 1984.*
These issues are inextricably linked in the real world and in the world Maria Irene Fornes presents us in What of the Night? The title is taken from Isaiah 21:11-12:
“Watchman, what of the night?”
The watchman said, “The morning cometh, and also the night.”
Through four one-act plays, we journey along with a family during the depression-era 30’s; a rising sexist society in the 50’s; the dynamic shift in America from the 60’s through the 80’s, during which sexuality, drugs, and greed all had their time; and finally, simply, “sometime in the future.”
We are able to view the opening three plays through the perspective of past vs. now with a certain amount of knowledge. But the power of What of the Night? could not exist without Hunger, the closing play. The totality of the four plays challenges its audience with knowledge and fear. “sometime in the future” could very well be tomorrow; it could be 100 years from now. For many (see statistics above) it has already come.
And for much more, it will come if there continues to be such a blasé attitude toward a system that perpetuates destruction in every form by those who control it. Action germinates from attitude and we must begin by heeding the words of Meryl Streep: “we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy.” Then we must go further. We must actually act with empathy. For if we do not strive to bring the morning back to those for whom the night has already come, who will care when the night comes for you?
-By Ensemble member Topher Kielbasa
*This is not a pun.