27 October, 2005

To See or Not to See What I Wanna See

    When I first read a spoiler-filled synopsis of Michael John LaChiusa’s newest work, See What I Wanna See I immediately rejected it as a show I could see (given the opportunity) because of some of its content – namely both rape and consensual sex depicted on stage.
    Since the show has been running in previews for two weeks (it officially opened last night), a number of people I know have gotten a chance to see it and have been discussing the meaning and implications of the show ever since.
    From all I’ve read, See What I Wanna See seems the most thought-provoking musical to come to New York in a very long time.  This is exciting for me.  The world needs more thought-provoking theatre.  LaChiusa and the gang of writers/composers he is often grouped with (Jason Robert Brown, Adam Guettel, Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens) are working hard to bring this kind of theatre back to the Great White Way.

Idina Menzel (The Wife) and Marc Kudisch (The Husband) in See What I Wanna See (Photo copyright Michal DANIEL, 2005)

    However, one dilemma remains: Can a Christian, in good conscience, go to See What I Wanna See?  Theatre isn’t like the movies.  You can’t wait for the DVD to come out and fast-forward the unpleasant or explicit scenes.  You’re not so removed from the characters in the theatre.  If you were to watch a rape scene in a movie it would be far less disturbing than watching one in the theatre – especially at the Public, a very small theatre with a thrust stage.  All the terrible action is right there in front of you . . . in the very same room.

Idina Menzel (The Wife) and Aaron Lohr (The Thief) in See What I Wanna See (Photo copyright Michal DANIEL, 2005)

    Even with this disturbing imagery, can a Christian see it?  The story would be monumentally different without it and far less thought-provoking.  Can rape be portrayed tastefully?  Perhaps it is portrayed as tastefully as possible.  But is it proper to portray it at all?  Is there another way to show the selfish paradigms of sinful man without using rape, consensual sex, and grim murders to do so?  If there is, would the story be nearly as powerful since part of the hard-hitting nature of the show is found it the extreme nature of the situations at hand?

These are the questions that have my mind churning in circles about this show and theatre in general.  If given the opportunity, I would want to see it because nothing like it has come along in a very long time, but I do not want to be desensitized to sinful extremes.  Thankfully I live 550 miles from the city and don’t have to actually make the decision, but I can’t help wondering . . .

19 October, 2005

Nobility in Elizabethtown

“ . . . the idea of nobility is inseparable from the idea of tragedy, which cannot exist without it. If tragedy is not the imitation or even the modified representation of noble actions it is certainly a representation of actions considered as noble, and herein lies its essential nature, since no man can conceive it unless he is capable of believing in the greatness and importance of man . . . We no longer tell tales of the fall of noble men because we do not believe that noble men exist. The best that we can achieve is pathos and the most that we can do is to feel sorry for ourselves. . . . But a Tragedy, Divine or otherwise, must, it may again be repeated, have a hero, and from the universe as we see it both the Glory of God and the Glory of Man have departed.”
~ Joseph Wood Krutch, The Modern Temper, “The Tragic Fallacy”

    Elizabethtown, while not a tragedy, brings back this long-forgotten idea of noble man. The idea that men aren’t just some lowly creatures and equal to all other animals, but a higher order, created in the image of the Almighty God and therefore inherently noble. Yes, men tend to shun this nobility, but it is in all of us and it is this inherent nobility, rejected and found again, that Cameron Crowe weaves throughout his film.
    We begin with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), a young, fast-climbing shoe designer obsessed, like the rest of America, with success. When his apparent success spirals down first to failure and then fiasco, he becomes lost. He had cast nobility aside to pursue success and failed. Without the nobility he rejected and the success he strove for, Drew has nothing, so he decides to kill himself. But then his sister calls with news of their father’s death and he has to put off his suicide until he can tie up the loose ends.
    What follows is the gradual awakening of nobility in Drew. In flight attendant Claire, Drew finds something he never knew could be so wonderful: the nobility he has rejected. Claire – with the aid of many intriguing characters – helps Drew understand that his life is meaningful . . . important even.
    The film doesn’t tell us what it is that makes Drew’s life meaningful or important, but that’s its beauty. A film that can come to one conclusion and one conclusion only, is not a good film.
    This is a good film. It’s not a film you go to in order to sit idly back in your seat as your brain mindlessly soaks up the words. You have to engage with this film. You have to work to understand the characters and why they say things. What those looks mean. But enjoy yourself. It is a movie, after all.

Artistic musings . . .

    This is the new blog I have created for the express purpose of theological musings on art -- be it film, theatre, music, or any other fine art. I will still use my xanga for blogging on random matters, but it seems no one cares to read (or at least comment) on my longer, more intellectual posts which are mostly related to the the world of theatre and the like.
    So, without further ado, I give you my serious blog. Enjoy!