If I had gained nothing else from this show besides the passage from Phaedrus about the metaphorical growing of love-wings irritating like the cutting of teeth, I would still be thrilled. That, however, was just the beginning.
A friend of mine tells me I do a great impression of a three-year-old in awe. I work in a preschool, and I like to make fun of that particular mouth open eyes shining look kids get when I am, for instance, telling them about how my kitten fell into the toilet. The thing is that those kids are prepared to hear anything. The story contains absolute possibility. Anything could happen next. They might well hear something at any moment that will shake their worldview forever.
We all know that look. I suppose it’s called wonder, and is a somewhat tired topic. I hear a lot of lamenting about its end. But during The Itching of Wings, I found myself doing my wonder-impression totally inadvertently. I watched with my mouth open. I was ready for anything at all and was prepared for my worldview to be rocked forever. I don’t feel this way very often, and I absolutely love it. That’s what I want art to do for me—and this show did it.
Part of my thrall, no doubt, had to do with the soft and slightly breathy French accents; that certainly helped. But I was also entranced by the discussion of wings, the overlay of texts on the stage, the movement of bodies. It was smart. And it was lovely. I felt I might learn something. And I feel I did learn something. And I think it might even have something to do with wonder.
I was particularly taken when the question was raised of whether or not to end the show with flight. The following discussion of postmodern pastiche did not go far toward deciding, but we are left with the soaring man-image and the awkward earthbound man-body, all very Icarus, but also funny and beautiful. And then, the final word is had by the absurd, the abominable snow man of a would be bird-man. Here is what we are.
I want to equate wonder with that itching. The show seemed to me to be about transcendence, about redemption, about wonder. I think I would phrase it this way: we fail to transcend. But our desire for transcendence is ultimately redemptive. We retain wonder in the face of explanation, we retain desire in the face of failure, and we retain, whatisit—a belief in our own beauty in the face of our absurdity. We retain humor and ridiculous hope. Our bumbling desire for flight is our transcendence.