Existence of Reality in Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy and Edward Albee's Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Growing up, I always assumed that my parents would grow old together. I fantasized about introducing my future children to their still-married grandparents and attending, if not personally planning, my parent’s fiftieth anniversary celebration. Although my parents fought and struggled with areas of perpetual disagreement, somehow things always worked out and in my naivety, I believed they always would. However, as time progressed, the unresolved, and in some cases unspoken, issues that had plagued my parent’s marriage since its conception festered and ultimately reached intractable proportions. As a messy divorce loomed, each parent explained his version of the events and “irreconcilable differences” engendering a separation. Although the facts presented in each account matched, my parent’s respective interpretations of the facts differed greatly. As I listened to my parent’s rationalize their inability to get along, I realized that although my parent’s stories did not match, neither party was actually lying. Each parent simply presented to me his or her version of the reasons for divorce. I knew that somewhere hidden in the subtext of my parent’s explanations laid the truth. As I sifted through the slightly convoluted information, I began to wonder, “Is reality a relative concept?” After reviewing my personal experience, Christopher Durang’s play Beyond Therapy, and Edward Albee’s Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?, I reached the conclusion that, as inherently paradoxical as it seems, reality exists as a relative concept.
Ostensibly, in the complexities of a divorce, the true reasons necessitating a permanent separation become shrouded as each parent strives to affect his or her personal agenda. Reality becomes completely relative as each parent rationalizes and subsequently manipulates fact to eschew his own guilt, regret, and hurt. Although no parent wants to place a child between his parents, no parent wants his children to perceive him as a bad guy either. Consequently, the explanation of his actions each parent offers tends to partially acknowledge responsibility, but mostly attributes guilt to the other party involved. This calculated distribution of culpability occurs courtesy of the subjectivity innate to an individual’s interpretation of events. Perception varies from person to person; reality follows suit. The way one views the circumstances of his life depends upon his unique outlook and objectives. In a divorce, events and overriding issues undergo manipulation to propitiate the hurt each parent feels. Applicable to unpleasant circumstances other than divorce, this coping device proves effective in assuaging the suffering felt by many of life’s upsets and disappointments.
Just as my parents interpreted reality to correspond with an ideal situation and self-image, the characters in Christopher Durang’s...