Wisdom through Madness
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Douglas Adams is one of the most recognizable authors of our time. Next to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and perhaps John Grisham or Stephen King, Adams brand is easily one of most memorable and enjoyable series to ever be produced.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a radio play that was adapted into a book that became trilogy in five parts that then became a television show which was adapted into a movie that did not quite live up to the hype that then returned to television. Somehow or another this story has ended up here at Hedgerow Theatre, and that is exactly what this fascinating ride is: a story.
No matter the form, no matter the method, the arc stays the same. Adams wrote in a witty, sardonic tone that equalled that of Charles Dickens. Each character seems to posses a quick whip or a beautiful simplicity, but either way it is Adams way with words that draw us in.
It is as if the Trickster god has stepped behind the keyboard, and is offering up sage wisdom through irony and puns.
“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened,” writes Adams.
If Adams is a bit of Loki or Anansi, his desire is to transgress. He breaks social taboos by placing them in far off vessels and allowing us to see the ridiculousness of a belief, crosses between worlds and time as a passenger unnoticed, and presents multiple contradictory truths.
It is as if Harlequinno or Truffaldino has taken hold of the pen and become the scribe. The Fool stands the test of time, whether he is in commedia or cartoon, because he places for us, a context of madness.
“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans…” writes Adams.
If we look at another dramatic example from Shakespeare’s King Lear, Lear’s Fool functions as the same role. Loyal and honest, he comments upon the king’s actions as well as functions as the king’s conscience. The Fool is able to point at the faults of the king, and through irony, sarcasm, and humor he eases the truth to protect and educate his friend.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be,” writes Adams.
In this example, we are Lear: mad, betrayed, heart-broken, confused, and lost. It is the Fool who writes to us and allows us the opportunity to see truth through comedy, to swallow the sugar-pill of knowledge with a smile. Adams zanny Universe offers us a chance to laugh at our own stupidity, at our own futility, and our own fragility.
Whether it is Loki or Harley, Adams or Mel Brooks, the clown speaks the truth that no one else can say. He plays the trick that forces us to see reality. He bends the laws in order to show us what things could be.
As we prepare to open The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Part 2, we prepare to imagine how the Universe might be, what aliens might be like, and how we would act if faced with utterly ridiculous circumstances.