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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark

"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"



"The Ones Whom Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula K. LeGuin
"Sigh" by Steve Kidd

Performed by Steve Kidd

I don't review things people can no longer see, but what else can I do? Perhaps you will be lucky enough to hear that it's being given again, and, seeing it yourself, understand. But since, right now at least you can't see it again, I can break a rule of mine and tell you what happens in this solo show --- for many reasons the best solo performance of the year.

First, young Steve Kidd reads --- adding expressive mime bits to his joyously vivid descriptions --- Ursula LeGuin's parable of a gleaming, healthy city the happy people of which are all imaginative, uninhibited, guiltless, and joyful. But their abundant blessings are possible only because a feeble-minded child is kept locked away from their sunlit joys in a dungeon the size of a broom-closet. This is the sort of social contract the carefree people accept, aware that their good fortunes remain possible only because of the child's inarticulate wretchedness.

But Kidd interleaves in the telling of this morality tale three monologues of his own devising, each called "Sigh". In the first he is Cyrus, at seven, good at baseball but angry when anyone makes fun of his lisp. And Kidd really IS Cyrus, haltingly and distractedly telling his class about going alone to camp where he makes friends with a legless boy so good at it he can teach Cyrus how to swim while being taught for the first time to play baseball.

Later he is Cy at thirteen, "helping" Harry his step-father mow the baseball-field grass even though the AIDS that killed his real father and his mother has sent him blind. I tell it terribly ineptly, since the beauty of the piece depends so much on the only gradual growing awareness of the bits and clues and details that take on deep, biting significance as they come together.

Near the end of this piece Kidd steps out and, as himself, pours all the passionate memories of, as it explains in his program, " ... hearing the news that one of my former campers had passed away from AIDS at the age of 13 ... " directly into an eloquent awareness of all the potentials lost in such a case.

His final monologue is as that bereaved step-father, revisiting the grave of a kid who would have grown four and three-quarter inches in the intervening year. Harry says he makes irrational bets, like if he can hold his breath until the light turns green then it will have been a dream that this kid who said he wanted to be a star is alive no more. He says he asked for some divine sign in the next ten seconds, and when he suddenly saw a meteor it told him what kind of benevolent, always-with-him star Cyrus had become.

I tell it badly. There is none of the sentimentality I imply in any of this. Steve Kidd IS his characters, floating unrestrained emotions with exactly realized detail and lending every phrase, each word an expressive weight, humor, and honesty.

The final words are LeGuin's, telling that every so often, suddenly shown or reminded that an entire city's perfections rest on the imprisonment of a single child only dimly aware of its dungeon, some people walk away from all the perfections of Omelas, without even looking back.

If it happens again, if you get the chance, experience this hour and a quarter of theatrical excellence. It is rare that a performance can so remind us of the dangers, the beauty, and the obligations involved in being human.


"Omelas/Sigh" (20 & 26 August)
Black Box Theater, Boston Center For the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
(617) 426-2787

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide