The Word PROGRESS on My Mother’s Lips Doesn’t Ring True
by Matei Visniec
A surrealistic and deeply ironic look at a family of refugees, that returns to a place reminiscent of the former Yugoslavia. Two young brothers-in-law insult each other across a road as they exchange news a new baby born to one man’s sister. Refugees return to the land they were chased off of by a super patriotic Soldier. A Father and Mother return to their old burnt-out home and begin to look for the body of their missing Son, so that they can bury him, mourn and carry on. One Son seeks recognition by the Mother, who seems obsessed with locating the other Son. Their old neighbors have secrets, and a new young neighborhood is selling bones. The Father has no recourse but to begin to dig up the old stinking well, the backyard, the forest, and finally the actual burial site. But, as the bones are dug up and placed on the kitchen table, the one and only Son brings home ghost guests to reclaim those bones. We realize that the land is populated by both the living and the dead. And, so, we travel the same absurd and sad journey with the parents, who finally find their lost Son’s bones. In a seemingly obscure sub-plot we follow the plight of a young woman, who in the final scene we understand is the sister (young mother) from the very first scene.
Matei Visniec was born in Romania in 1956. From an early age, he discovered literature as a space dedicated to freedom. He draws his strengths from Kafka, Dostoevsky, Poe, Lautréamont. He loves the Surrealists, the Dadaists, absurd and grotesque theatre, surrealist poetry, fantastic literature, magical realism, even the realist Anglo-Saxon theatre. He loves everything except Socialist Realism.
Visniec studied philosophy at Bucharest University and became an active member of the so-called Eighties Generation, who left a clear stamp on the Romanian literature. He believes in cultural resistance, and in literature’s capacity to demolish totalitarianism. Above all, Matéi Visniec believes that theatre and poetry can denounce manipulation through "great ideas", as well as brainwashing through ideology.
Before 1987 Matéi Visniec had made a name for himself in Romania by his clear, lucid, bitter poetry. Starting with 1977, he wrote drama; the plays were much circulated in the literary milieus but were barred from staging. In September 1987, Visniec left Romania for France, where he was granted political asylum. He started writing in French and began working for Radio France Internationale. At the present time, Visniec has had many of his works staged in France, and some fifteen of his plays written in French are published (Actes Sud-Papier, L'Harmattan, Lansman). His plays have been staged in more than 20 countries. In Romania, after the fall of Communism, Matéi Visniec has become one of the most frequently performed authors.
The work of Matéi Visniec has been represented in London by the performance "The Body of a Woman as a Battlefield", staged at the Young Vic Theatre, in November 2000. The play received rave reviews in the British newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian. "The Story of the Panda Bears told by a Saxophonist who has a Girlfriend in Frankfurt" will be performed at the Edinburgh Festival (August 2005). The production is by Rouge28 Theatre, London. In Unites States, the work of Matéi Visniec has been represented in New York, Chicago, New Jersey and Hollywood.