Over and over, Sokolow builds these impeded efforts. The people could get together if only they did something simpler, more direct. When they're alone, they frantically shake their hands, clutch their faces, throw their heads back. A woman stands center stage. One man, then another and another, strides past her. Each time, she jerks her head away as if she'd been slapped. They haven't even seen her.
Dreams is said to be about the concentration camps, and it's full of nightmares. Things you can't finish doing, like the woman who crawls over the shoulders of men, peering into an endless escape road. Or the man running in place, faster, faster, his head arching up then pitching forward, till he's doubled over but still running. Or another man, drumming a rhythm on a stool as if he were trying to remember a song, a face, and trying harder and harder, till he's running and pounding the rhythm into the back wall. He stops, yells once. His yell becomes a cry. Then he opens his mouth. No sound comes out.
The thing about Sokolow's people is that they're alone. Their sexual longings are private, their schemes for relief are inhibited. Even when others are present, they don't connect. Maybe it's not even possible to imagine this kind of repression in an era when teenage girls text snapshots of their naked bodies to their boyfriends and people confess to rape and murder on TV. But even if you don't empathize with the pathology of these lost souls, the starkness of what they do is piercing.
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