Many of the songs are barely congruent with the plot at all. Thus the song SOS puts lines in the mouths of both Donna and Sam, one of her three former lovers whom she hasn’t seen in 20 years, that relate the stresses in a current relationship, not one that hasn’t existed for two decades (“When you’re gone, how can I even try to go on?”), and Knowing Me, Knowing You, a breakup song, is awkwardly jimmied into a slot where Sam is giving marital advice to his putative daughter Sophia on the verge of her wedding.
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New Orleans had to be rebuilt, of course. It was too important commercially, socially, and artistically, not to rebuild – and the dynamism and new blood evident in many formerly devastated areas, including the infamous Lower Ninth Ward, which I visited on my trip, demonstrate the value wrought by the commitment not to let New Orleans die. The city must thrive again, and can only do so in the zone the levees protect. But in a larger sense levees are a state of mind and of being we need to question. They create safety at a heavy price, safety that will not always prove reliable, and they defer failure until catastrophic events, giving rise to a false sense of permanence before the reckoning comes.
A lawyer whose services were sought by rich and poor alike, who could establish a rapport with his poor clients, who could communicate such confidence and engender such trust, and who could serve as a legislator chosen for “most of the leading committees,” and farm on the side, simply must have been an extraordinarily talented and fulfilled person. And, I strongly suspect, a happy one.
Let’s get real. When we help out “Special Immigrant Juvenile” kids, we are merely doing a pitiful little bit to help them reassemble lives our own proxies disrupted. We are helping to re-situate our victims far away from the societies they should be growing up in, but they can’t because our activities wrecked those societies.
The unresolvedness of social themes is a feature, not a bug, as far as Miller is concerned. Miller has willed the ambiguities and the gaps in information, and tightly controlled the opportunities for interpretation that might resolve or suggest resolutions to the ambiguities. There is a path to execute, and the Everyman crew execute marvelously, but this is not the same thing as the artistry that directors and actors can ordinarily exert. Most plays give their performers more room to interpret, to breathe.
There is no question that Donald Trump’s plan to cut off all entry to the country by Muslims, immigrants and visitors alike, is widely and justly felt to be contrary to this country’s values. But I have heard it said that such a ban would also be unconstitutional or illegal. I’m far from convinced.
The central very large subject, the Whale of the title, is morbidly obese Charlie, who teaches college-level expository writing online because he is far too debilitated to leave his ill-kept little apartment. He has one friend, a nurse named Liz. The college students he deals with online seem to be, without exception, inarticulate and unengaged, and he in turn appears equally clueless about how to live or even save the life he is rapidly growing too large to hold onto, despite Liz’s best efforts. His path to this lonely and isolated place only comes out gradually. As the story emerges, though, it becomes apparent that he is engaged in a heroic quest of sorts to salvage something of importance from a lifelong struggle.
Seminar starts out strong, ripping into the fabric of the business of teaching fiction writing with knife-edged one-liners and characters you love to despise; then, as the plot, the characterizations, and the theme take a hairpin turn, it emerges that, no, the teaching is not a scam after all, the students’ fiction has possibilities, and the characters are not what we thought them. All Rebeck’s hilarious savagery dissipates. Like Rebeck’s writing and show-running for the first season of TV’s Smash, it is a little too affectionate toward the business and the people in it to stay as scathing as Rebeck could and should keep it.
In short, you would have to be a corpse not to enjoy this experience. Come to think of it, based on the number of times in the show the dead are resurrected to help with the wisecracks, even being a corpse might not prevent your enjoying this show.
It can be seen, then, that there is a clash between the empathic world view, the conscience, that informs our laws, grounded in a respect for others, and the psychopath’s. So who is right?