Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 16, July 12, 1976.
Circa Theatre Presents:
Circa Theatre Presents:
Kennedy's Children is a play that shows a society suffering from culture shock. Set in a New York east side bar in 1974, five 'victims' of the sixties talk, to the audience and to themselves, about their lives. There is no verbal communication between the characters at all Each live in their own little world, seated at their own table, and only a look or gesture establishes contact with the others.
If the characters are not held together by dialogue they are certainly held together by a common disillusionment and malaise. Then there is the atmosphere of the bar itself. Its run by an impassive barman who serves the drinks and keeps the tab in a manner that implies indifference and threat Its as if he's adding up a silent reckoning.
Nothing 'dramatic' happens. The characters talk and the audience perhaps wonders why it isn't being bored. But the stories are compelling and are told in a way that involves and implicates the audience with the events themselves.
The characters are hardly representative. There is Sparger, a 'cracked actor' involved with the New York underground theatre movement. Wanda is a social worker who identified so closely with the Kennedy myth she cannot see round it, even though it has been proven false. Rona is a refugee from the student protest movement and counter-culture. There is Carla, devotee of Marilynn Munro, who realises the sixties weren't all that wonderful, but who sees the seventies as the 'arsehole of the sixties'. And finally Mark, a southern boy, Vietnam War veteren who sits through the whole play reading from his war-time diary.
These monologues, punctuated by juke-box music from 1974; Elton John's 'Candle In the Wind', Bob Dylan's 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door', reveal less about the people than what is left unsaid about themselves. Wanda tries to keep the Kennedy myth alive by giving her life to help under-priviledged children. 'We marched: exalts Rona as if marching were the be all and end all of existence. Despite the fact that the myths have been shattered: Rona's husband has become cynical and militant and is on hard drugs; the founder of Sparger's first theatre chopped himself up in his last performance, they are kept alive because the sixties were the most meaningful part of their lives. They all want to believe in the myth because they have nothing left to cling to. They have allowed themselves to become crippled by the past. The bar is a scrap-heap of lost causes.
We see why the protest movement failed It lacked a mass base and popular support. It was open to exploitation and misinterpretation "They're already bringing out '60s nostalgia records, for chrissake!' This is not a nostalgic or romantic play. It sets out to destroy the myth, and succeeds. Of the five, Mark is the only one with any impetus. He leaves the bar saying 'I know what I'm gonna do now.' It is the only positive action in the whole play
Although the events described have only marginal relevance to us, the attitudes of the five characters are indicative of a whole western pattern of thought. The obsession with myth and fantasy, introspection and pessimism; the need for escape from the terrible realities' of life, are all hallmarks of the western dramatic character
For some, this will not be an easy play to relate to. Others will find it an absorbing testamant to the last decade. It is a tight competent production, and some of the performances are very moving. These actors have established a mood that incites a very personal response If you are prepared to indulge a little in some anti-nostalgia, there is something in this play that should appeal Only by not making sense out of the sixties' sudden 'failure', does the play make any sense at all.