POST: FringeNYC's 'Land of Broken Toys' - life doesn't make sense


I haven’t gone out for a solid 2 weeks. I mean, I went out to shop or grab food but I hadn’t enjoyed myself in almost 2-3 months. Instead, I've locked myself in my home living vicariously through snapchats, Facebook posts, movies, TV shows and doing DIY projects.

This had been my life, until July 17th, 2015. That night, my whole family, included extended family, decided to spontaneously go out to fish in the middle of the night. There was at least 12 of us all packed in two cars, dressed in throwaway clothes, with trunks packed to the brim. We went to some pier in Brooklyn at 1 AM where we fished for an hour until the cops had come and closed the park. We all decided that Rockaway beach was a nice alternate but, after what seemed like hours of driving, we figured out that the beach was closed.  But, as we drove around one last time, we saw something in the water. Beyond a patch of green grass we saw men chest deep in water, with the shine of the moon glistening off their bodies. Turns out the grass field we thought was nothing was actually hiding a small shore, almost like a paradise on earth. One by one we jumped right into the pit; the men we had spotted accompanied us and enjoyed our company. There must have been at least 25 people on that shore, spending 3 hours fishing, laughing, swimming, and just having a genuinely great time.

I looked at my surroundings and for the first time in a long time I felt good. I didn’t feel alone, I wasn’t picking at my faults and insecurities, and I wasn’t scared of going out. I was just sitting there, surrounded by good people, enjoying myself, the salt breeze, the shouts from my family and the distant view of the A train chugging along its tracks. And I felt good. 

Fast forward 10 hours and I’m sitting in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people surrounding me and I feel it again, the loneliness.The intimate theater brought me back down to earth from my starry-eyed state of the night prior.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Land of Broken Toys. I found myself annoyed, angry, even disturbed by the qualities these characters possessed. But as more of their personalities came out, I started to see more of myself in these characters. Honestly, to see myself in characters as broken as Luke, an intense neurotic man, and Kenna, a defensive complicated woman, was rough. 

All thoughts of the dream-like night seemed to vanish from my mind and my head was preoccupied by my demons that had come to taunt me in the form of a fringe festival play. I couldn’t hide behind movies or DIY projects; I was forced to see what I had been successfully avoiding for three months in a short hour and twenty minutes. That might seem farfetched but it’s the honest to god truth.  

The characters in this play are people you wouldn’t ever want to associate yourself with. But I sat there and related to most of their flaws. Luke’s intense, aggressive, and crass personality regarding love and relationships was easy for me to understand. Like Luke, when I see someone I want I go for it whole heartedly and don’t think about the consequences. And like Luke, I leave each relationship with the bitter remembrance of what happened. When Luke commented on Kenna’s sexual preferences, asking if she has ever been with a woman, I didn’t think much of it. But once we were informed of Luke’s history with his ex wife the scene seemed much more important.

I understand too well Luke’s trepidation. Every time your heart is broken you are left with the grave responsibility to piece yourself back together again. But it seems like you never find all of the pieces, and some part of you goes missing. I guess in the long term it’s better to learn lessons the hard way, that’s what I keep telling myself.

And then there’s Kenna - defensive, complicated and broken - who I related to the most in this play. Of course, I can’t relate to being an avid drug addict, or a high school dropout, and certainly not being a mother but I relate to many of the underlying emotions she feels. The exact moment I knew this play was going to be hard for me to watch was when Kenna said “I just don’t know how people can be happy.”

She’s a difficult person to figure out but as I was, I realized some things about myself. Many of her (and my) actions are fueled by the fear of being lonely. It seems like every time you take a step towards what you think is the right thing, it just takes you two steps back - making you feel all the more isolated. So, what do you do? Tell ourself it's better not to put ourselves out there, it’s better to stay away because you're toxic. A walking, talking contradiction. 

I've spent my summer running away. Without even realizing, this play had me face the worst parts of myself. Thinking back on the past 24 hours, it seems like a dream. But it seems off - shouldn’t my fishing trip have come after the play? After a huge confrontation with my inner demons, I take a short vacation from reality and realize everything is going to be okay. But the thing is life doesn’t make sense, not in the way we want it to.

Luke and Kenna went through a lifetime of sadness but at the end things seemed to head in a better direction. If they can handle their horrible messy lives then there has to be hope for people like me, right? I suppose I just have to take things step by step. I have to seize the beautiful moments when they happen and take the dose of reality when it’s time and just do my best. I guess at the end of the day, that’s all I can do. 

- Rafa