They say: Who are you? Are you what you should have been? How did you become who you are? Can you face your inaction, your culpability, your own judgment? Peter Handke’s 1968 “speak-in” becomes an aural spectacle invading your awareness and permeating your experience.
Suzyn says: When I don’t understand something, I try to apply the best advice I ever got about law school. “When you think you’re drowning,” my favorite professor once said, “Grab a board. Just take something you understand and hang tight. Then try to get another board, and try to build a raft from there.”
The thing of it is, ‘Self Accusation’ doesn’t lack for boards. I understood every sentence. Indeed, I understood every word, except “orthography” and I looked that one up when I got home*. The play is essentially a recitation of acts and misdeeds the two everypeople (or two aspects of one everyperson) have committed, the vast majority of which are mundane “I ran towards something…I ran away from something” though a few are extremely odd, i.e. “I dealt in expired meat.” A few of the acts are patently evil, but most of them are violations of petty rules of society. (Oddly, “I eulogized Milosovic” didn’t make the list, but it would have fit right in.)
The delivery varies. It’s never quite in unison, even when the actors are speaking the same lines. The default delivery is reminiscent of the Lord’s prayer as recited by a congregation, though the tone varies substantially from this at times, with the characters lip-synching one another one minute and fighting sometime later. There was quite a bit of stage business with an umbrella, a pipe and a magazine, as well as a few bits of clothing the actors put on and later took off. I assumed that was more to break up visual monotony than anything else, and it did the trick.
I felt bad for Jerry Herbilla and Kris Roth, who struck me as the two hardest-working actors in Washington. (Present readership excluded, of course.) This was fifteen pages of dense, repetitive, filibuster and they made it entirely watchable. This was probably the only point in my day that I went 50 minutes without checking my cellphone, or having any desire to do so.
See it if: You were a philosophy major, or you’d like to know what it’s like to be that chick from “The Closer”
Skip it if: Seeing a guy put on a sweater and shoes while delivering oddly obvious lines with strange cadence will give you Mr. Rogers flashbacks.
*The study of writing in a particular language correctly, according to a particular method. VoilÃ !