ENLIGHTENMENT ON E FLOOR NORTH explores the absurdities of employment in the most unlikely of places – the galleries of an art museum where four security guards toil away by mindlessly standing next to invisible masterpieces. The fulcrum of ENLIGHTENMENT is silence; the play opens with the stupefying stillness of the guards standing at attention. For a few minutes we watch the nothingness of three men and a woman in blazers facing us motionlessly as they carry out their duty. The museum workers are watching us, the captive audience, and we are watching them, and there is just time passing. The rest of the production, one might say, is an unpacking of that silence.
The counterpoint to this initial stasis in the play are the self-staged games the guards take up to kill time – child-like amusements during which the workers transform from reified automatons into merry play-makers. They impersonate museum patrons (a lady who always visits with her dog). They stage a make-belief teleportation device. While no one is looking, Turner the new guy (Roblin Davis) removes an extinguisher off the wall and pretends to be a fire fighter. Mike the security manager (Aram Aghazarian) and Gene (Kamili Feelings) duel it out spaghetti-Western style, their ties transforming into hissing snakes. Unwittingly, when engaging in games the guards turn into creators, into artists in their own right.
Between games of make-believe and stone-faced silence of job performance are moments in which the characters reveal glimpses of their internal turmoils and longings: Gene’s delirious, mind-warped soliloquy on leaving for work in the morning; Dylan’s (Rebecca Noon) swooning to the music of a piano recital; Turner’s attempts to gain a wider prospective as he discusses black holes and the cosmos (“Think about it. Why are we here?”).
Not driven by the logic of plot or conflict, ENLIGHTENMENT is propelled by organizational imperatives codified in invisible procedures, rules, and regulations that force the guards to submit to motionless silence in the beginning of the play. Their day oscillates between robotic obedience to institutional clock-time and microscopic acts of resistance such as throwing one’s uniform blazer on the floor, picking one’s nose or putting up a picture of the Milky Way in the breakroom. The product of this continuous commerce between inner life and the rigid institutional framework that entraps it is the absurd, which the Strange Attractor Theater so masterfully wrests out from each workaday gesture. [White Space at the Crane Old School] September 7-18, 2013, fringearts.ticketleap.com/enlightenment-on-e-floor-north.