This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Last week the Columbian Players at SJC presented their version of the play Urinetown, The Musical.

It is a strange play that takes many of the conventions of musicals and turns them on their head. The premise is that there is a severe drought and in order to save water, the privilege of going to the toilet is being rationed. In many or perhaps most plays and movies some suspension of disbelief is necessary, but though I can accept super powers and all kinds of absurdities in sci-fi movies and enjoy them, I never could quite muster up the suspension of disbelief needed for this. If there is a shortage of water, it makes no sense to ration the excrement of fluid; it makes sense to ration the intake of fluid. The people who wrote the play recognized that they had a problem here and in many other places, because one of the characters, the chief police officer, also serves as the narrator. His explanation for the absurdity of rationing the privilege to pee was that the it was the whim of the playwrights.

As the play starts the poor are being oppressed by a greedy capitalist who bribes the government to get laws passed that benefit his corporation, the Urine Good Company (UGC). We meet the hero, Bobby Strong, who falls in love with Hope, the innocent and naive daughter of the greedy capitalist. Inspired by the words of Hope and also the guilt of not standing up for his father, who was arrested for urinating in public and sent to Urinetown (which means he was killed), Bobby starts a rebellion. It all sounds like the typical conflicted love story with good battling evil.
But, as I mentioned, the playwrights delighted in standing convention on its head. The hero, Bobby, is killed well before the end of the play. Hope, who has been held hostage by the rebels, does a Patty Hearst and decides to lead the rebellion against her father. She is successful and has her father executed, all in the name of love, peace, and social justice. Hope and change come to Urinetown.
However, it turns out that Hope and change lead to disaster, not a happy ending with people living in peace and prosperity. The water shortage is real and the unlimited use of water that the rebellion promised quickly leads to an even greater shortage and a return to drastic measures to curtail the use of water. I really liked the anti-utopian ending--it made up for that premise that attacked my ability to suspend disbelief and also the mediocre music of the show.

The main male leads did excellent jobs, especially the student who played the evil capitalist, but they are seniors who will graduate. For many years I thought that SJC did not have the depth of talent to do musicals really well--the lesser roles suffered even when they could get strong performances from the leads. For the past few years that has not been true--they have had unusual depth. However, unless they have some exceptional recruiting years, they will be back to where they were in the past. (That criticism does not hold for the non-musical dramas and comedies, which are far less demanding to cast.)

Today is Colloquium Day at SJC. For some reason someone out there thought that I might have something interesting to say about adventures in blogging even though I told them that they would find the things that I do very boring. If my ten minute presentation is not a complete disaster, maybe I will write something about it. Or maybe I will write something if it is a complete disaster--that might be more interesting.

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