Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tradition!

I've seen a couple of plays recently, and each one was humorous and well acted.

On the stage of the Colleen Williams Theatre in Winder, Georgia, I saw "Harvey" performed by the Winder Barrow Community Theatre. Although it was my idea, hubby, son, and friend all enjoyed the play. This was the first production I've seen by this group, but I hope it isn't my last. While the entire cast did a good job, Tery Overby as Elwood P. Dowd was the star of the show. For anyone who hasn't seen it, Harvey is imaginary, and Dowd is a pleasant nutcase. Or maybe he isn't so nutty after all. Regardless, this blend of fantasy and reality harkens back to the comedy of manners. Remember manners? I hope so!

I was also privileged to see Harvey Fierstein in the touring version of "Fiddler On the Roof," at a theatre which bears the name Cobb Energy Center. There was plenty of energy on stage, so maybe it isn't such a weird name after all. My sister was my hostess for this event, as a birthday gift, and it was a fine gift indeed.

"Fiddler on the Roof" is a musical, and while it has funny moments, it is also a touching story. It opens with the musical number "Tradition" and gives a fascinating portrait of the life of Jewish peasants in Russia just after the turn of the twentieth century. Tevye has five daughters, but no money for a dowry, and it is this problem which gets the story underway. However, this is not a comedy, because there are more significant matters going on in the Tsar's Russia, and in the world, and the small village of Anatevka will not escape the pograms and the oppression that culminates in revolution. There are wonderful songs, including "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," and "Sunrise, Sunset" and some great lines in "Fiddler on the Roof," so it is a play which has broad appeal. My favorite lines are those uttered by the local rabbi when he is asked for a blessing for the Tzar. His response is, "May the Lord bless and keep the T'sar... far away from us!" Amen. I've said that about a few other folks, if the truth be known.

As we chatted about the play on the way back to the car, sister focused on the pathos at the end, but I see it as also filled with hope. Yes, the inhabitants of the village were the victims of prejudice, forced to leave with only a three day notice, but it was that mistreatment by the Russians which caused them to come to America, a new version of the promised land.

One of the best ways to know a civilization is to study its literature, because historians always write with some bias, and drama is one of the best ways to experience being an American. Each of these plays, although far different, are examples of wholesome entertainment, which is so lacking these days.

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