Friday, March 11, 2005

Two very different evenings of entertainment
Last night was an outrageous evening at the Oklahoma City Civic Center seeing "Mamma Mia!" with Fr. Tharp and tonight was the movies with my dad and stepmom seeing "Hotel Rwanda".

Weeks and weeks ago Fr. Tharp had asked if I would like to see "Mamma Mia!" This is a musical written around songs from the 1970's (and a bit into the 80's) international hit band ABBA. Of course, ABBA's songs, despite having disbanded in 1982, still play on and are known by a rather large audience. We've all probably heard the music. The notion of a musical written around this music, I will admit, both horrified and intrigued me. On the one hand, it sounds like a hopelessly stupid scheme to pass as a musical; on the other hand, the music is rather nostalgic and, in its time, it was rather innovative. I think the beginning of the musical itself actually capitalized on these sentiments. A faceless voice over the sound system made the typical announcements for live theatre (regarding no flash photography, recording devices, or cell phones and other electronic devices in use) but added something like this, "A fair warning to our patrons: White spandex and platform boots will be in use during the performance!" It was certainly loads of fun to hear the songs done live. Until last night I had only heard the songs on the radio or on CD. But, what really surprised me was that there is really a story, a legitimate plot to the show. Granted, the plot may be a bit thin, but it wasn't nearly as thin as I had anticipated. There was minor tragedy, conflict, and resolution. And the writers really were clever at how they incorporated ABBA songs into the script. In addition, the very simple set was superbly employed and the actors themselves moved props and helped change scenes in a manner that can only be described as part of the choreography for the show (only done with low lighting). All in all, it was very enjoyable and clever. It certainly won't stand the test of time as memorable drama and -- I pray -- generations from now won't look back on us and see "Mamma Mia!" and the likes as what we ourselves viewed as normative theatre. I admit, I am a bit worried about this sign of our cultural times because "Mamma Mia!" is not the only musical out there incorporating pop songs. We shall see.... I'll let Fr. Tharp add any more details about the show that he might want to share.

Tonight was a very heavy drama about the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. It was an excellent film based on historical events that told the real life story of a man in the midst of this sadly real human drama. The film captured the atrocity and the weight of the tragedy without showing gratuitous violence and without being oppressively bloody. In the midst of the ugliness of the tragedy, the beauty of human goodness was also visible (reminds me somewhat of "The Passion of the Christ"). I think the lead actor (I don't remember his name) performed exceedingly well. As an African man he was very much involved in, and overwhelmed by, the events of the unrest in his country. But the movie also showed how his role as the manager of a hotel-turned-refugee-camp placed on him a certain duty or role that he had to play -- a certain facade he had to keep up -- in order to bring some sense of stability to terribly frightened people. Ultimately, of course, this was a role he played to save lives. It was gripping film. It made me think about the larger connections we all ought to know and feel as members of the human race. It made me think how easy it is to see such terrible storied on the news and to go on, leading my daily life with little impact or even thought to the depth of human tragedy in other parts of the world.

I would highly recommend "Hotel Rwanda" to anyone and, should "Mamma Mia!" come to your town, I think you would enjoy a little 70's flashback!

No comments: