The curtain rose to reveal a man and a woman sitting opposite each other and very close as he moved his lips in exaggerated fashion and said "Say 'my----name----is-----Sarah.'" At first only sounds came from her mouth, and as he repeated his words the lights slowly revealed the dirt floor, the broken-banistered stair case, the low wooden stools and benches, the old man in raggedy clothing sitting beside the fireplace and holding a book. After several minutes of long slurs of vowels and random consonants, the woman said,
"My----name----is-----Sarah." And the man's face lit up and he clasped her hands in joy.
This was the opening scene of the play Jim and I saw tonight, Translations by the Irish playwright Brian Friel. The man is Manus, a school teacher (and Irish nationalist); the woman is Sarah, whose lack of speech is not fully explained but has many metaphorical resonances in a play that is set in rural Ireland in 1833 and that "explores the troubled lives of a handful of characters struggling to adjust to the shifting dynamics of the world around them, which is undergoing quiet but radical change as the hard fist of British regulation seeks to impose itself on local tradition."
Charlie, off from school for a week, spent the day with my parents at the mall, on walks, at the grocery store where he put a container of olive bruschetta---he said "hummus"---into the cart. "What does he mean by that?" my parents asked me. "Hummus means sauce, in a jar," I said.
And if I had not spent the past 9 and 3/4 years with Charlie, I do not think that opening scene of Translations would have had the same familiarity for me, or the same power.