Playwright Mac Wellman doesn’t choose words for anything so dull as their sense. Rather, he selects syllables just as you might pick blooms for a bouquet–for their color, for their shape, for the bold concurrence of their petals and stems. Wellman deploys this floral approach to language in 3 2s; or AFAR, an ineffable, agreeable hour-long work inspired by Martin Heidegger’s “Dialogue on Language Between a Japanese and an Inquirer.”
A short course in continental philosophy is not a prerequisite for admission to the show, though patrons clustered in the Dixon Place bar afterward did seem to enjoy discussing whether one moment referred to Heidegger’s duck-rabbit illusion and another to his essay on Van Gogh’s shoes. But those who don’t boast a heavily annotated copy of On the Way to Language can simply relax and bask in Wellman’s word choices.
The play concerns a romance between a Woman (Jocelyn Kuritsky) and a Man (Quinlan Corbett), who sometimes speak the lines of Heidegger and his colleague, Tezuka Tomio. But often the two leave aesthetic questions alone and discourse instead on Greek diners, shoes, shows, and some worrying puppets, designed by performer Jan Leslie Harding. Under Meghan Finn’s direction, a vase is smashed, clothes are doffed and donned, but it’s nearly impossible to know what, if anything, actually occurs.
Perhaps the “Dialogue” idea that most relates to Wellman’s work is the difficulty of using words of one language to express an idea particular to another. His theater seems to defy rational description. It requires that you be present–breathing, watching, and most of all listening–in the performance space as Wellman’s words surround you. Being and time are what he demands of you–and the rewards are ample.