Theater can be a very surreal experience. Sitting in a dark room you are a voyeur to real people saying things to one another that are make-believe. They move around and pretend to be someone they are not and sometimes the person they are pretending to be is you.
As I sat watching “Leveling Up” at the Playhouse in the Park I was blown away to see a character that reminded me of, well, me. Watching the actor, Bobby Moreno, play Chuck, was like watching myself at seventeen. A version of myself that I remember somewhat fondly, he spent most of his time in a dark room playing video games, being weird and mostly carefree. As I sat watching the play, which was amazing in and of itself, without the added bonus of a character just like a young me up there, my friends sitting next to me kept leaning over and whispering, “That’s totally you.”
Even after the play was over the main point of discussion was, “Zach, was it weird that they used your life story on stage?” And it was. It was odd seeing a character that reminded me so much of myself, and to see it live in person.
All the ways in which the character was portrayed were reminiscent of myself. The slouched beanie, the general disregard for hygiene of plans, the apathy towards all things except girls and video games. It was rather spooky thinking someone could create a figment of their imagination that so closely resembled me. I honestly felt bad for them. Then again, I am pretty amazing so I guess it makes sense, but still that is a lot of apathy to try to contend with and make an interesting side character.
I have seen hundreds of movies and at times certain characters remind me of people I know and even of myself, but there is so much less of an impact because there is such a huge barrier between the actor who is portraying a character that resembles one of my friends. In theater, the connection is immediate.
The theater is something that not everyone can enjoy, because some people can’t hold their bladders very long, and sometimes you want to simply see a movie loaded with explosions and gun fights. To me, however, theater is where true entertainment lies. I don’t mean it in some snobbish, pretentious, British accented “Theatre is living art, is it not Charles? Jolly good show but I am still rather bored. Let’s go toss stones at the peasants, shall we?” I mean it in the exact opposite way.
Live performances allow the audience to be swept away. There was no wall between me and the seventeen year old me. He was right there and I was watching him. The actors moved in a space that I myself could move in and I heard words come from their own mouths and when they faked hitting one another it felt more real than any fight I had ever seen in a movie.
The words they used affect me more because they are being said in my presence. When a character tells another character off, there I am, listening to someone say something awful to someone else, and it is right there, in person.
There is something great about seeing a play. It is the way the words fall, and how actions can be perceived, and the nuances that you are able to take in because it is all right there in front of you. I had forgotten how much plays move me, not because they are necessarily better than movies, but because they are much realer in their surrealistic nature.