August Wilson and wife, Constanza Romero, 1999
So Barack and Michelle came to New York to see a Broadway play. Not just any Broadway play, but one I saw too, just last week. Cool as it would have been to see it with the Obamas, I think it would have been distracting. And all those Secret Service men would have made it harder to sprint for the ladies’ room during the intermission. (My companion, who had to slip out to use the restroom during the first act, would probably have been arrested before he cleared the aisle.)
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is a great play. It’s the second in August Wilson’s monumental 10- play cycle exploring the black experience in America. It’s complex, passionate, rich in language and character, joyful, tragic and funny. But more to the point—regarding the Republicans’ lament that the President should not have been allowed to leave his duties to attend the theater, especially since he didn’t invite the CEO of General Motors to go with him—the play resonates in important ways with the issues facing this Administration.
1) The central character was illegally captured and imprisoned for 7 years.
2.) An inability to get credit holds back a smart, entrepreneurial man.
3) Still, he manages to own a house by taking in boarders.
4) A salesman with a good database can find anyone.
Perhaps everyone in Congress should be required to see the play, and to write a 5-page paper explaining its central themes. These would be randomly shuffled into papers written by New York City high school seniors, and marked by teachers; only those Congressmen who scored as high as students in the top 25% should be allowed to keep their posts…
Here I go again, dreaming about small government.
Tonight, Charles and are going to a PS 122 production of Jimmy, a one-woman show written and performed by Marie Brassard. The New York Times describes it thus:
“Jimmy is a gay hairdresser inhabiting the psyche of a sleeping American officer who, having seen him in a bar, has adopted him into his memory. Jimmy is on the verge of kissing Mitchell, another fantasy figure, when the sleeping general dies, leaving Jimmy in a nether world, seeking consummation.
“Until years later, that is, when he is resurrected in the actress’s subconscious, joining regular residents there: a little girl and the actress’s old and judgmental mother…Against this background are excursions down shadowy corridors like race, sexuality and politics.”
It’s a good thing the Obamas didn’t decide to see this. I’m not sure the Republicans would have ever recovered. On the other hand, I doubt if The Times will ever recover from lines like “excursions down shadowy corridors like race, sexuality and politics.” Does anyone have any idea what this means? If one must resort to metaphor I think “waterboarded into the glaringly lit, cacophonous Grand Central Station of race, sexuality and politics” would be more apropos.
I’ll let you know if it’s any good.
From Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
LOOMIS. Had a whole mess of men he catched. Just go out hunting regular as you go out hunting possum. He catch you and go home to his wife and family. Ain’t thought about you going home to yours. Joe Turner catched me when my little girl was just born. Wasn’t nothing but a little baby sucking on her mama’s titty when he catched me. Joe Turner catched me in nineteen hundred and one. Kept me seven years until nineteen hundred and eight, kept everybody seven yeras. He’d go out and bring back forty men at a time. And keep them seven years. I was walking down this road in a little town outside Memphis. Come up on these fellows gambling. I was a deacon in the Abundant Life Church. I stopped to preach to these fellows to see if I could turn some of them from their sinning when Joe Turner—brother of the Governor of the Great Sovereign State of Tennessee—swooped down and grabbed everybody there. Kept us all seven years.