The Lie that Binds, Life Sentences, and The Wild Duck

Last night I saw the Weston High School Theater Company’s excellent performance of The Lie That Binds. What? You’ve never heard of this play? That’s because it was written collaboratively by the cast and crew — namely, the students in the Theater Company. Click on the link for more information, including photos of the production. You will also see there that Weston was one of the winners of the preliminary round at the Mass Educational Theater Guild Drama Festival. Congratulations to all involved! I particularly like this paragraph:

Finally, Weston received the coveted Stage Manager’s Award–given not by the judges but by the host school to the stage manager of the school that is the “best guest” — friendly, efficient, organized and professional in their approach to the one-hour technical rehearsal and the festival day itself.  Stage Manager Irene Droney accepted the award on behalf of the whole company.

And now a segue to something that sounds entirely unrelated: Laura Lippman’s novel, Life Sentences, which I just finished reading. Lippman is best known for her Tess Monaghan mysteries, which I have unaccountably failed to review, though I reviewed two of her other novels five years ago — on April 13 and April 24, 2006. Life Sentences is a hybrid, a cross between a mainstream novel and a genre novel, and I definitely recommend it. The connection here is that the crux of the stories is a set of lies that may (or may not) hold a family together, and what happens when the lies come out. The lie involves adultery and a dead child, partly involving the family of a prominent politician — close to the story of The Lie that Binds. Although it is possible that someone in the Theatre Company has read Life Sentences, I think it’s unlikely. It’s more probable that this is an old literary theme that awakens especially whenever real life gets close to it.

Actually, when I watched The Lie that Binds, I wasn’t thinking of Life Sentences (since I hadn’t finished the Lippman book until today) but of Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. We read this provocative play in the wonderful eleventh-grade English class in which I was a student many decades ago. We also read five or six other Ibsen plays, and The Wild Duck is one of three that have stayed with me ever since. Again I have no reason to believe that anyone in the Theatre Company has read or seen The Wild Duck, but some of the thematic similarities are striking. Like all of Ibsen, the play feels quite modern, even though it was written well over a hundred years ago. As in both of the newer works — the Lippman novel and the Weston play — an initial lie is based on adultery, and then more lies are piled on. Eventually the truth turns out to be worse than the lies. Of the three works, only Lippman’s manages to have a happy ending.

Categories: Books, Weston