At some point, while I’m sitting there immersed in Backyard Renaissance’s production of Abundance, I start thinking about Westworld. I know it’s wrong of me to be distracted from this harrowing, heartbreaking tale; but I can’t help it. Partly, I dig Westworld as much as I love a good play; partly I just like to let the play take me to weird places, if that’s what’s going to happen, which it usually does; and partly I had a super concrete reason for going there in my head, but I won’t spoil it for anybody.
So, anyways, I was thinking about Westworld and the West.
I was thinking about why Westworld (the fictional place, not the show) is Westworld, not Ancient Greeceworld, or 1970s Cincinnattiworld (although, who wouldn’t want to go there for some of that chocolatey chili on spaghetti?!).
Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite N, Rolando
$15 - $30
I was thinking that surely it has something to do with “going to see the elephant,” as one of the characters in Abundance puts it. You see, the thing that makes Westworld so popular with the fictitious people who go there on fictitious vacations, is that you can be whomever you want to be in Westworld — killer or hero, sinner or saint, the choice is yours. And where better to play out that elaborate fantasy than in the West? It is no coincidence that a world of limitless fantasy unfolds on the backdrop against which the titanic ambitions of Manifest Destiny and the closely held dreams of real-life Macon Hills and Bess Johnsons played out.
Sure, maybe people figured out a long time ago that there wasn’t any elephant to see, but the enduring myth of the West and its promise to make life new persists today. Muted though it be, it still reaches out to us from stage, as Macon and Bess wait at the station in act one, scene one, and deliberate on just how wide open their futures are. Badass as Cincinnatiworld might be, I doubt it could raise the same spectres of endless promises long dead but not forgotten.