The new production stars Cynthia Killion as Hester and Eric Stein as Johnny. It is directed by Taylor Kasch — who also did the sound — and produced by Leslie Nichols, with sets by Mike Carnahan, lighting by Gary Richardson and costumes by Barbara Pedziwiatr.
I was on a panel once, at the end of the Cold War, discussing Soviet music and film. A man in the audience proposed that “with the death of Stalin, Shostakovich had lost his great subject.” This struck me as nonsense then, and it so strikes me now.
Without words, music cannot make political statements. Even “La Marseillaise” depends completely on historical associations for its message — since, remember, it was originally written as a monarchist ditty.
Rare is the idealist who believes that music can bring down a dictator, and Shostakovich was not an idealist. His prevailing spirit, which music can describe, was darkest pessimism shot through with lightning bolts of irony. To bind him to Stalin like that, a sort of anti-Boswell, is to reveal a complete ignorance of how art works.
Nevertheless, I am sure that there are clever people out there who will help themselves to more canapés and blithely aver that, with the end of apartheid, Fugard has become irrelevant, his existing plays dead letters, his further efforts pointless. It’s true that Fugard was an opponent of apartheid, and that most of his plays are set in the social system created around apartheid. But the plays are not “about” apartheid, they are about their characters, and the specific ways that people’s thoughts and deeds are distorted by living under an unjust system.
This is an early play, and Fugard’s touch got a good deal lighter as he developed his talent. There are two characters, each of whom has spent a lot of time alone, speaking — when they spoke — to themselves rather than other people. There is sometimes a Beckett-like obsession with minutiae, but with more angry intensity. To an unusual degree, its success depends on the actors’ ability to hold our attention, to keep us involved. That requirement satisfied, the play makes for a gripping, unforgettable evening.
Performances of Hello and Goodbye are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. (The production is not recommended for children.) For ticket information and reservations, click here or call the Santa Paula Theater Center at 805.525.4645.
The center is located at 125 S. Seventh St.