It seems the Lebanese intellectual society never ceases to insult itself ad infinitum. I went to see a play last week at Monot Theater. It was a Lebanese production with a compendium of star actors. My rant will exclude the level of professionalism of the said actors or how good the play itself was. I will thereby focus on the audience. It was a full house with the play entering its last week. No curtains opened and no audience applauded when the renowned and well-deserving Lebanese actor, Talal al-Jurdi, stepped on stage. I found that to be weird and even weirder when actress Rita Hayek came out and the audience roared. Funny! But no judgment.
The play exuded of sexual tension played out by all four actors. That in itself reflected brilliantly on the audience, specifically on the 60-something man in the row in front me. This was supposed to be a classy, well-cultured and well-read audience. Or so I thought. The brief tacky comments can be overlooked, it is the noises and the facial expressions of most of the men present which shocked me – and I still did not mention the old ladies present. We are a people still unable to take a work of art as art. We laugh whenever two kiss, turning each scene of one devoid of meaning save that hung to a kiss, a look, a gesture and an orgasm. That is the reaction by which we have received the introduction of man’s most natural of relationships into our art scene: a frustrated laughter. Let us all take lightly what is still a burden to us, what is still a taboo so much so we can do nothing when confronted with it other than burst in laughter. Let us dumb-down our cultural productions, by all means.
I was perplexed. Seriously? The old lady seated next to me gripped the seat then burst out laughing when the tormented free but lost soul, Georgie (played by Rita Hayek) jumps on the socially awkward and shy professor Andre (played by Talal al-Jurdie), trying to kiss him, trying to tell her own teacher that she wants him, trying to incite him to cheat on his fiancé, but most importantly attempting to simplify his reality to him and prove to him that he is no longer in love with his fiancé, that he is fighting the truest of his feelings and desires. It was a play between morality and desire and it was well-played. I will deny that the scene did hold something comical but the message was not to be responded to by a nervous exaggerated laughter. It was funny, period. Not that grip-the-seat-shift-position-cough-or-burst-out-laughing-funny. No! not at all. It was as if the audience was awaiting these kisses and sexual encounters more than the actual development of the plot. I was disappointed and in fact was most of the time preoccupied with the audience’s reaction than with what was going on on stage.
Then he messaged her feet and what does the old do? He moaned. And let your imagination crawl on the walls if it has to. You can only imagine what he did when he rushed to the bathroom during intermission.
What I am trying to say, and I do not know whether I was justly able to do so, is that that audience was no way short of being termed idiotic, ignoramuses in suits and heels. I might be exaggerating but I am commenting on what I had seen that night. I insist that last week’s audience should not be and is not to be representative of the whole cultured Lebanese society. I refuse to be associated with this type of audience as I believe most of today’s theater-goers would, at least I hope so.