Untold stories of self find an expression

Mixed Media

On catching up with an old friend after a long time, how do your conversations usually roll out? One often ends up asking, “How’s life been?” and the other shares the story of his life.

But where do you start from and where does the story of your life reach its climax leading to an end; is there ever a trajectory it follows? If not, then how does one constrain to fit one’s life story into a short conversation?  The three monologues in the play The Imaginary Life of Dogs hit upon this dilemma, as they interlace a couple of stories- The Deceitful Marriage and The Dialogue of the Dogs- from the Exemplary Novels of Miguel Cervantes at the Instituto Cervantes over the weekend.

With a bare minimum stage design, the three monologues follow one after another; the first one involved two characters over a chat, the next one humorously played out shadows of dogs over a banter when the two gain the gift of speech one night and the last one relayed the story of a shepherdess as she explains the idea of chastity while a video of an anonymous girl strolling by plays on-screen.

The introductory note leading into the performance acquaints the viewer to the situation, saying that the story of oneself is ultimately the only story we ever tell. This story is impossible to tell because it has neither a beginning that we can reach back to nor an end that we can foresee. In the stories we tell about ourselves, we can never go beyond the fantasy that generates them. The desire to get at the origin of the story blinds us to the origin of desire itself, and the ‘told is shadowed by the un-told’. With that quizzical opening, the play takes us into a setting in Spain where a soldier emerges from the Hospital of Resurrection, bumps into an old friend and shares the story of his marriage, a marriage full of betrayal and pain. From his story arises the story of the gifted dogs, who take jibes at each other while one shares the story of his life with another.Notably, the two dogs turn out to be star of the show, as they boss over each other, exchanging potshots such as, “For an appealing narrative, you need to dress up your stories with gestures, create something out of nothing. So, do not forget to put this advice to use.”

Walking in for this performance by A Yellowcat Theater production, one finds oneself amidst an exhibition of portraits of anonymous people- with every freckle on their face depicting an untold story on sheets. Crafted on paper with charcoal by the artist Omar Arrez, this intended juxtaposition adds to your experience of the play.

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