Last night Cindy and I watched a play called Home Front at the The Meisner Technique Studio. The whole play is set in a 1970s living room. It’s about family, communication, trauma, and love. Cindy and I cried all the way through it.
Even though most of the 2.5-hour-long play consisted of arguments between the characters, around halfway through I realized how much I was enjoying their connection, their love, and their depth of feeling. Most people argue to connect with each other. It became so clear from the play that the main problem was that the 23-year-old veteran was preoccupied, perhaps mostly at an unconscious level, with the horrors of the Vietnam war, which he had returned from six-months previously.
The Meisner Technique, which Cindy is training in, is all about being aware of our deep, natural reactions, and letting them out freely, bringing an authenticity to performances, completely not “acting.” The paradox of this play was that it consisted entirely of the “actors” using the Meisner Technique to play roles in which the people were holding in all of their true feelings and reactions. So much love was being withheld because of shame and fear.
I kept wanting to say to the father: now hug him, now be vulnerable, now, please, melt yourself. At the apex of the play, after the son threatened to kill the father, I expected the father to understand, finally, what the son had been through. This was the information that was desperately needing to be conveyed between father and son, to be spread and carried throughout the family. This horrific story and memory had been carried, after so long being held painfully by this boy in isolation; at last it was free. But, tragically, the father could not hold the intensity and violence of it. The father rejected the son, sending him into the cold, to probably become homeless and destitute, to be shameful, to be made to carry away the badness, to be made to stop soiling the false, sterile self-image of lower-middle-class suburban tranquility.
As I watched this amazing play, amazingly well performed, I reflected on how Cindy comes from a family that has been pulverized by the same forces of violence in Vietnam. I felt deep sadness and compassion for Cindy’s family members, and had a deeper appreciation for all the pain and suffering that must be roiling inside them, hidden under the surface of “don’t bring shame on this family.” How trapped they must feel; how lonely and isolated. No wonder suicide is so prevalent not only in Vietnam vets, but also in the families of refugees and other survivors.
Please go and watch this play if you can, or any of the other outstanding plays produced by The Meisner Technique Studio.