aired June 11, 2011 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube: Tony Awards
Shalom, Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon, with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of June 12, 2011.
Despite my ceaseless grouchiness, there are some things in this world that I love. A good pastrami sandwich, for example. Watching reruns of Columbo. Getting a check in the mail from someplace I wasn’t expecting. Getting a check in the mail from someplace I was expecting. All these things give me joy. Well, unless the pastrami is too fatty. Or there’s too many commercials in the rerun. Or the check in the mail isn’t really a check, it just looks like a check but it’s actually a coupon where they fool you into thinking you’re getting money but actually, it’s just a fake discount where you’re giving them money – bastards!
But be that as it may, some things do make me happy. And I admit, I have a soft spot in my heart and in my brain for the theater. Plays, musicals, erotic circus performances – anything in which talented people are doing their best to entertain the rest of us.
I remember the first show I ever saw. It was Oh, Calcutta! I was 8 years old when I went in – and 27 when I came out. I recall being deeply moved by seeing a Death of a Salesman. Unfortunately, the salesman was my uncle Morty, and he died when he was hit by a bus on 23rd Street. And in 1975, my high school teacher asked if I wanted to see “The Wiz.” Then he took me to a urinal, and I don’t wanna talk about what happened next.
But still – the theater! Broadway! The Tony Awards, which are happening Sunday night, at New York’s Beacon Theater. Oh, I wish I were there! Look at the shows that are up for Tony Awards this year. For best play, there’s Jerusalem. It has nothing to do with Jews, or Israel, or, from what I’ve heard, anything relevant to anybody, but hey, the title!
Then there’s the revival of The Merchant of Venice, with Al Pacino playing Shylock the Jewish moneylender. This is a very difficult play to pull off, because it’s supposed to be comedy. Meanwhile, the Jewish character, who just wants his money back, is mocked, humiliated and forced to convert. Some hilarity. Too bad Shakespeare didn’t write “Schindler’s List” or we’d have had some real giggles. And really, Al Pacino as an observant Jew? They couldn’t get Steve Guttenberg? (sigh)
In the category of Best Actress in a Musical, we have Donna Murphy nominated for The People in the Picture. This is the story of the Yiddish theater in Poland, both before and during the Holocaust. I’ve heard Donna Murphy is wonderful, but really – “Murphy?” They couldn’t get a Yid for this part? A hundred zillion Jewish people on Broadway and they get someone who couldn’t tell corned beef and cabbage from kasha varnishkes and kneidlach.
And then there’s a play called “The Motherflinger with the Hat.” What kind of name is that for a play? Of course, I’m bowdlerizing it for radio, but who can put this on a poster? “The Motherflinger with the Hat.” They can’t even advertise it. People are saying, “The Mother with the Hat,” “The Mother F-er with the Hat,” “The Hat Play,” “A Buncha Schvartzes Sitting Around Talking.” What, they couldn’t name the play something you could put in a newspaper?
I don’t mind dirty stuff in the play. Half the shows out there, every other word is “f” this, and you’re full of “s,” and why don’t you “s” my “c” in the YMCA? One time I saw a censored version of American Buffalo. It was twelve minutes long! I’m not against foul language; I use it myself sometimes. Most of the time. Nearly all the time, but still, how do you put a play on tour that you can’t promote? They’d have to run a brown paper bag over the marquee.
What I do like about this year’s Tony nominations is their multi-faith nature. You got Shylock and the Holocaust and the AIDS play – The Normal Heart – lotta angry Jewish people. You got pissed-off Muslims in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. There’s goofy nuns in Sister Act and sad Baptists in The Scottsboro Boys. Someone tries to kill the Pope in The House of Blue Leaves, and of course, there’s The Book of Mormon, which has people shtupping frogs, raping babies, getting colonoscopies – my kind of show!
It is said that if you make fun of one culture, you’re a bigot, but if you poop on all of them, you’re an enlightened liberal. Hypocritical as that may sound, it works for me. And if we’re all going to the theater laughing at each other’s stupidity, crying for each other’s losses, and hurrying to be first in the bathroom at intermission – that is the true spirit of globalism, of empathy and of sharing the human condition.
I offer my best wishes to all the Tony Award nominees – you are all winners, even the losers. Except Billy Crudup, because he was terrible, and Arcadia’s boring, but the rest of you: take a bow.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches. On with the show.
(c) 2011 TotalTheater. All rights reserved.