For years now, I’ve been thinking 3-4 projects ahead, as I continued to experiment with something Bonnie Marranca calls, in Plays for the End of the Century, “a theatre of the first person.” Personal. Addictive. Cleansing. Basically therapy (why pay for therapy when you can stage it?)
Long before starting Noir, I knew that a love story with the Angel of Death would take me to Chekhov’s world of unrequited love, and then to the biggest idealist of them all, Quijote. These were the plays of the trilogy called The Falling. Then followed the most autobiographical play ever, Revision, and its finality, its irreversible nature, ended the first person cycle.
While working on Revision I tried really hard not to think of the next play. I failed. I was writing scenes for The Registry in my head while learning lines for Revision. The whole thing felt like imprisonment or self-sabotage. Days after Revision closed, I had the character files for The Registry complete.
So what is the Registry? A slippery bureaucratic empire, a potentially fantastical organization in charge of people’s souls. The branch we get to see in the play is in charge of love affairs, romantic encounters, soulmate scenarios. Ideally, everyone on file should be paired with the perfect partner, but the place is understaffed, and its clerks are overworked, so mistakes are made quite frequently. Grim angels in a suit, the clerks of the Registry work inside a place that looks like Kafka for lovers or Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Imagine The Castle with a coke machine. Or Metropolis with an artist's model, and a psychiatrist on staff, for voluntary (mandatory) art and therapy sessions.
The Registry understands the century and has adapted to it. It has a vigorous social media presence using a Facebook-like network called Skyway.com to advertise its services (and secretly follow the private lives of its employees). It assigns multiple case workers to the more difficult files, and maintains a page called soulcrush.com where people can advertise their desires and expound on their unique qualities such as the fact that they enjoy long walks on the beach, and would like to consume cheese in the company of attractive and intelligent people. “Who is the crush of your soul?” is the network’s tagline and many of the Registry’s employees believe it to be truly catchy.
The characters are: Ada G. Ash, a Client in search of a modern day Mr. Darcy; Gianni Cassanova, the Artist’s Model (with a Ph.D in Philosophy); Suzi Might, Director of Accounting and an Expert in Risk Management; Betty Grail (Baby), a Registry Records clerk and Initial Interview Specialist; Athena Drake, Psychiatrist and Closet Romance Novelist; Vitto Salieri (Sal), Chief Human Resources Officer and Chair of the Committee on Committees, and God whose employment file is entirely classified.
The story has to be simple: a misplaced piece of paper, a detail, will get someone killed.
The subtext is simple: of love and bureaucracy – something as elemental and easy to comprehend as death and taxes.
The paratext is what I’m most excited about. If I get to stage this play downtown and have access not just to the stage but to the corridors and some gallery space as well, the world of The Registry will start to unfold weeks before the show, as the offices of soulcrush.com and Skyway Enterprises (“Our way or the Skyway” is another catchy motto) will invite future spectators to play. They’ll be able to describe their perfect partner, leave notes, take selfies inside the Registry Headquarters, post them online, receive responses to their inquiries, and so on and so on…the possibilities are endless.
As usual, the cast is perfect, and being completely familiar with their inflection, presence, walk, idiosyncrasies, and talents, I am writing lines with their persona in mind.
So these are the people. This is the plan. I am using real bureaucratic correspondence – emails and memos I have received whose content I will adapt to the needs of The Registry – that convinced me that bureaucracy has indeed the power of life and death over us mortals, and that its language can often annihilate sentiment. What happens to our more and more pallid understanding of love and relationships under the lens of a bureaucracy of the Registry’s proportions?
The stage is set. Rehearsals begin in August. The Registry has opened its doors.