If There Is, I Haven't Found It Yet

November 2, 2012 | Alex

I've been keeping up with my 30-day OKL challenge on my pinterest page the past couple days (albeit not at 11am on the dot), but I've definitely been distracted by all the Sandy fallout. I'm sorry to say that the blog has been neglected as a result. As my mom very articulately put it in yesterday's post, these sorts of events really shift your perspective. While life is starting to return to normal, I'm still finding it hard to get excited about throw pillows. My office in the Financial District finally got power back last night, so I'm working for a few hours, but must leave before dark as the street lights and traffic signals outside are still out. The office is a ghost town-- most people had no way to get here. I arrived after a 2 1/2 bus ride from my parent's apartment. The most disturbing part of being here is knowing that a huge portion of our staff is from Staten Island, the epicenter of the storm and the source of some of the most heartbreaking news stories. With communications still down and residents stranded on the island, we have no way of knowing how many lost their cars, homes, and god forbid, members of their families.

As I'm sure most people have heard, there's this weird dichotomy in the city. Some neighborhoods are 100% back to normal, whereas other neighborhoods are completely devastated. Celebrities are shelling out big bucks for celebratory post-storm dinners and champagne uptown, while people with no food or cash are resorting to scavenging in dumpsters downtown. This photo, via Cup of Jo, really captures the divide. I witnessed the stark comparison myself yesterday when I walked from Brooklyn to Time Square for a long-standing theater date with my mom. I almost skipped the theater, but I think in these sorts of situations it's important to try to get back to routine.

Wow. I'm really glad I went to the theater. It was a perfect night to see the Roundabout Theater Company's "If There Is, I Haven't Found it Yet," which uses society's attitude towards climate change and extreme weather patterns as a metaphor for the family's circumstances. The play-- incidentally Jake Gyllenhaal's US stage debut-- is about a dysfunctional family caught in a state of paralysis. The couple knows their marriage is falling apart. They know that their overweight and bullied 15-year-old daughter is in dire emotional straits, but they don't exactly know what to do about it. Or, more likely, they are afraid that taking action would require recognizing how far gone their family is.

When the husband's burnout brother (Jake Gyllenhaal's character) drops by for an unannounced visit, he unknowingly breaks the delicate, unhappy equilibrium the family had been living in and sets in motion their collapse. I mentioned that it was a perfect night to see the play, because the husband is a professor, wholly absorbed in his sanctimonious dismal manifesto about climate change. His extreme commitment to reducing his family's carbon footprint serves the plot by intensifying his wife's resentment. It also provides fodder for the funniest line in the play: "I shudder to think of the carbon footprint of a sweet-and-sour chicken" his wife spits at him after suggesting they "nip out" for chinese food following the emotional climax of the play (they're British). It's funny, but it's deeply thought-provoking too. Particularly in light of Bloomberg's last-minute endorsement of President Obama on the grounds that we must confront climate change.

But despite the events of the past week, this is still a design blog. And while I have some very exciting announcements to make once I feel ready to delve back into blog business as usual, I thought I'd mention that one of my favorite parts of the play was the set. Because I'd urge you all to go see it (and don't want to give anything away), I'll say simply that the set was awesome. At the start of the play, every single prop is piled into sculptural junk heap in the center of the stage. It's this precariously perched mountain of stuff. And as the play progresses, the family destabilizes and the junk heap comes down.

Most of the furniture and lighting is Ikea. The actors, who do all the stage handling, are intentionally rough with the set. When a scene is over, they kick, shove or chuck the furniture into a trough of water at the front of the stage. It's creepy and jarring (and i kept wondering how many times they'll have to replace the poor, water-logged and abused kitchen island over the course of the play's run), but it does so much to add to the audience's sense of discomfort. And the set's junky quality really makes you conscious of how disposable the family members feel their lives are. Not to mention how angry they are! Nothing like kicking a fridge into a trough of water to blow off a little angst.

Anyway, I'm going to do my best to shake off the events of the past week. I'm hoping that doing some volunteer work over the weekend will help me get my head back. Stay tuned for some happier blog-related news early next week!