to scratch an angel
Synopsis * Outline Act 1 * Act 2 * Act 3
In a forest clearing, MUSIC asks the angelic MESSENGER to look after the human PRIMO. MELENCOLIA claims PRIMO is doomed. LUCK begs to differ. HOPE prevents CHORUS, divided into CULTURE and CIVILIZATION, from terminating themselves.
PRIMO appears, optimistic. Loosing mute LOVE, he remembers a father's mortal illness and following a "deaf duet" with MESSENGER (whom he can still neither see nor hear), confronts DESPAIR. CHORUS, as Health, bring PRIMO down. MESSENGER tries to help.
From an open, desolate field, paths of redemption are explored. MESSENGER duets with MELENCOLIA, PRIMO tries to proceed alone, and MUSIC hints at some routes [Burning Coal]. In the finale, the audience is left to choose their own path: upwards or downwards, alone or with guidance, connected to place and time or independent of it.
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ACT 1 - The orchestral overture [but not] brings up a full moon over the set of Act 1, A FOREST CLEARING. Following several strikes of celestial gongs, Two percussionists walk down the hall's aisles, playing glockenspiels, facilitating the appearance of MUSIC. In this unreal, mythical center of emotion, MUSIC laments violent acts of shootings, discrimination and libel [Broken]. MUSIC begs for help and unveils the MESSENGER. This angelic figure is asked to observe PRIMO and attempt to show him routes open to overcome despair, existential depression or other hardships. MESSENGER wonders where such safe havens may lie [Home]. The powerful MELENCOLIA interrupts, claiming PRIMO is doomed and history is leading to annihilation [Some Never Do]. LUCK begs to differ [Counting]. CHORUS, encouraged by MELENCOLIA, divides into CULTURE and CIVILIZATION, colliding in an exhilarating display of war dance and verbal abuse [The Reawakening]. HOPE securely puts an end to their revolution. These actions seem to control CHORUS but unease remains. Moving slowly, calmly, determined, CHORUS pass through a large gate, crushing HOPE in their way [The Turtle]. With no intermission, they lead into the backdrop of Act 2. It is THE STUDY OF MAN, a mix of prison cell, concentration camp cabin, desecrated library and hospital ward.
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ACT 2 - As CHORUS blends into background, it becomes part of the STUDY set, unnoticed. MESSENGER knows this space well, and tries to prepare it for PRIMO, adding books, clearing the damp air [When One Transcends]. PRIMO enters, momentarily optimistic [Love Will Answer]. A chorus member/dancer, as the mute LOVE appears, leading PRIMO to rejoice [The Flower]. Remembering a father's mortal illness and death, PRIMO has a "deaf duet" with MESSENGER, whom he cannot yet see nor hear [The Touch]. In front of the bathroom mirror, magnified on a large screen, PRIMO grasps humanity's mortal search for salvation [The Shave]. MESSENGER uses CHORUS as a train - to surrealy plow some paths for PRIMO [The Rest] - and suddenly realizes he had been riding MELENCOLIA, disguised. Through meditation, reading philosophy and science, PRIMO questions life's value and torments over mortality [Sand]. CHORUS, as HEALTH, emerges from the walls of the set, suddenly active and imposing. It strikes PRIMO down with illness, and MESSENGER must intervene, later watching over PRIMO's partial recovery [Arm Patrol]. MESSENGER leads PRIMO off, in search of salvation [Orts-und Zeitgebunden - tied to the place and time], closing Act 2.
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ACT 3 - Set in AN OPEN FIELD, with burnt, smoky nature all around and ruined cities in the distance. CIVILIZATION is dead. CULTURE struggles on. Forgiveness is difficult, understanding is near impossible. MESSENGER tries [The Day]. CHORUS, a MASS of workers/patients/prisoners, builds complex fugues and multi-tonal lines, in an attempt to find joy in little positive events. MESSENGER duets with MELENCOLIA, subduing her negative influence. Multiple roads open before PRIMO: he is stronger, healthier, and may suddenly choose many directions in which to proceed. Thanking MESSENGER, PRIMO tries to proceed alone. CHORUS, split into smaller and larger groups, places physical and emotional difficulties in his way. Should PRIMO look upwards, or downwards? Should PRIMO adjust, conform, and join one of the groups in his way? MUSIC appears (as "Guiding Light"? as "God"? as "Word"?) hinting at an answer [Burning Coal]. PRIMO looks to MESSENGER for support, then looks away [The Jew, Etc.]. CHORUS (with only strings in accompaniment) then bring the only non-original texts [SKIN] as a closing bookmark to this questioning, intimate journey. The finale briefly quotes from The Bible, Dante, Shakespeare, Proust and other classics. It does not answer our questions but rather leaves the audience to decide where one may find his or her own path: up or down, alone or with guidance, connected to place and time or independent of it.
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