Everyone thinks the diagonal life is unstable, and yet a most people submit to the diagonal life as a way of life. The Bread & Puppet Theater attempted to call attentions to this predicament on Saturday afternoon at the Montgomery Place Mansion south of Tivoli on the Hudson now managed by Bard College. The event was free, open to the public, and a great crowd of adults and children attended under mild afternoon clouds. Living the diagonal life inclines people to fall to the ground and it was on the lawn ground that the crowd assembled either sitting or prone.
Do you lean right? Or do you lean left? Are you confused about not being upright? Then the Bread & Puppet Theater, which always gives out free bread, may help you to live the upright life. They have actors and a small sextet band to accompany their allegorical antics. Even if you are not confused about which diagonal you live one, it remains a good move to check on your diagonal fall into the maw of forgetfulness. One emerges more stable, your walk contains a more upright lift, and you smile as you stroll away amid other smiles.
The Bread & Puppet Theater offered a tragedy in three acts. The principal star, renowned throughout the globe was Cardboard, which continues to be an ecological star throughout the globe because it is recyclable. Signage or masks with the voice of actors plus a bit of music. The script is different every year and never appears on television. Audience participation was decent, yet not nearly as good as the cavorting actors.
Among the assortment of skits was the oil pipeline running and winding through the audience. Nobody had the gumption or guts to trip up the actors as they wended through the docile and hypnotized audience, which apparently did not object to drinking contaminated water. One of the most effective skits was about the plight of women being beaten or shot for being pregnant and not being able to defend themselves from the abuse of the legal system. The skit on the removal of babies from the arms of mothers while crossing the US border was quite moving.
There was an abundance of broad satire on the casual conceptions of permanent war and the ecological demise of humankind amid a grim, comic realization that the actors were far more saintly and comic than the audience, yet in the end what was most memorable was the long skit on ecological apocalypse. A young woman was picked randomly from the audience to be the Messiah: she was given a 50/50 chance to put a ball through a hoop from about thirty yards away. This was the only chance humankind had under the odds, which were somehow fudgingly popularized downward from 10 to 1. The woman came quite close to the basket, but, alas, missed. However, it was followed by a skit wherein the incarnation of the Apocalypse was defeated by the magic of theater.
If you missed this opportunity to have the frontal lobes of your mind re-tuned for free, you will most likely have to wait to next summer. The in-house band played a great variety of goofy sounds, as well as music, and the finale was the New Orleans oldie “And when the Saints come Marching in.” Everyone enjoyed the tune, yet I am not sure everyone was tuned into its ironic implications. Perhaps the children were. One had to re-visit childhood to appreciate the irony of the skits, which always hit the target in an off-beat manner.