Just as memory allows us to learn from our mistakes and move on, it can also condemn us to live in the past with our transgression. What happens when you commit an irrevocable wrong is at the heart of The Pavilion. In the play, two high school sweethearts reunite at their 20th reunion, just as the school's old pavilion is about to be torn down. Coming to terms with their bitter breakup and the inevitable passing of old monuments, both tangible and intangible, is what drives the play.
"I was trying to figure out what redemption is if it isn't being forgiven or forgotten, because I find both those answers not very realistic," says playwright Craig Wright. Even forgiveness seems to suggest a willing loss of memory. Once we let loose the contents of Pandora's box, there's nothing we can do to recapture them. As one line in the play goes: "Hold on to the past, even out of love, and I swear it will tear you to shreds." Like holding someone's hand as the train leaves the station, our only choice is to let go and find a way to live with the painful memory.
But don't let any of this life philosophizing lead you to believe there's not fun to be had. Wright refers to this story as a "melancholy comedy." "A lot of times I can't help being funny," he says. He thought his current play Orange Flower Water was a serious story, but when he did a reading of it, no one could stop laughing. He doesn't mind, though. "That's the kind of humor I like, where it's just so sad that it's funny." Laughter is more satisfying, he believes, when it comes from an audience recognizing their own human frailties in a scene rather than springing out of well- engineered jokes.
Nor is this a play of ideas in the spirit of Tom Stoppard. Wright takes great pains to reveal any underlying thoughts of nostalgia through the actions and emotional journeys of the characters. "They talk about [ideas], but they don't talk about them like experts," Wright says. "What's important to me in plays is to depict normal people saying the honest things and taking the honest chances they wish they took more often They don't have to be hyper-smart, hyper-articulate. It's okay just to be who we are and live with courage. If I can promote that idea, I'm happy."
Born in Puerto Rico, Wright lived up and down the East Coast before settling in Minnesota at the age of 14. But there's one sentiment Midwesterners and Southerners share. "I like the slower pace of life the gentility of the culture," he says. "Is 'Minnesota nice' a little bit fake? Of course. But so is Southern hospitality. But they're both more bearable than East Coast obnoxious." Some wounds, time never heals.