POST: 'The Babylon Line' - it's strangely comforting to not know the ending
What's it about?
A small town in Long Island that can't contain the wrath of a depressed housewife.
What'd I experience?
At some point I’d like to think we’ve met (or will meet) that one inspirational teacher. I know my first semester of college was basically defined by the teachers that I got to work with. There is a special kind of teacher that not only educates academically, but has the strange ability to teach the most when they aren’t trying. I know I used to look at teachers like they were from some other planet trying to find different ways of complicating my time on earth. But the older I get, the more I have started to see the ‘human’ side of those people I spend 50% of my time with.
This play felt like I was seeing snippets of people's lives. I’ve always found snippets like that intriguing, rather than being told everything, since it lets my mind roam. There is something strangely comforting about not knowing the ‘ending’ to someone's story...
So, this story takes place in the sixties, which isn’t hard to guess from the lack of diversity in choices for adult-ed classes at a Long Island college. I mean, seriously, french cooking and flower arranging are the top choices for women. The only class left open ends up being a creative writing class led by Professor Aaron Port - who commutes a ridiculous distance from Greenwich Village to Long Island on the Babylon Line. The class had some... eccentric people in it. Mostly housewives, with the exception of two men. And the final student is Joan. Although she appeared to be the stereotypical housewife, she was better than I could have ever wished for.
First of all, the town she lives in is the typical “come here to build a family,” with every house on the block looking exactly the same. She doesn’t have kids or any friends in all of the 10+ years she’s lived in the town. Because she was so standoffish with the other woman, I wasn’t expecting her to crave human connection so badly. The more Joan shared her writing (which included a poem about kicking a baby - trust me it comes to make sense eventually in the end), the more I saw what a tortured soul she was. Her life to me appeared as my worst nightmare. She was gushing with creativity and yet restrained by the confines of a structured society. I don’t wanna offend anyone, I know certain people thrive amongst normalcy, but I know I don’t, and I could tell Joan was dying a little inside every day.
I’m not about to advocate hitting on your married professor, but there was no other choice for Joan. I mean there was, but she wouldn’t have gone out with as much of a bang if she hadn’t tried. Tried being the key word. Aaron himself is a bit restrained as he struggles with his writer's block, he was in nowhere near a loveless marriage. But Joan’s depression was the kind that would bleed into someone else's life, so Aaron starts doubting his own life. Although everything that revolves around both of them seems dangerous and like it will inevitably end in disaster, it’s a sort of beautiful chaos. In reality, they both teach one another things when they aren’t trying to learn or teach. Aaron provides the safe space for Joan to let out all her darkest thoughts, while Joan’s initial pessimism ends up making Aaron appreciate what he has to look forward to.
I always expect these teacher-student stories to be about love and usually they are and then I end up a bit disappointed, but this story's title being a literal train line is very telling. Yeah, it’s that cheesy “the journey you take with them,” but it’s also about not taking shit from other people who think they know the right way to live life. Everyone has their own version of a happy life, it doesn’t have to be a set of milestones that have to be met. As sad as it may be to think that someone's happiness is living in ignorance in a loveless marriage, it’s really what someone may want for themselves and in the end, who am I to say anything? Joan’s case was unique because she was so desperately seeking connection with someone other than the people in this small-minded town, and Aaron was simply the vehicle that was able to connect her to what would end up being her happiness - a writer in NYC.
Want to see it?
Sorry, this show is not currently showing :(
What'd you experience?
Let PXP know in the comments below...