Radical Preaching

Can preaching again have something to say?
This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Not a Happy Musical

This weekend, I went to see a play that one of my teens was in, Urinetown. The strange name aside, this play is very interesting in light of many of our conversations here. To summarize briefly, Urinetown is a Tony-award winning play about the effects of overconsumption of resources. In the play, the city has suffered a 20 year drought that forces the Urine Good Company to take over public restrooms. Money, power, and monopoly contribute to twist UGC into a corrupt company bent on exploiting the poor, who can afford only one of the town's public restrooms. The government acts to enforce the interests of the company by banning public urination (No pee for free). The threat that lies behind the law is banishment to Urinetown, which is a euphemism for death. To be sentenced to Urinetown is to be sentenced to death.

However, the musical itself is a parody of other musicals, deconstructing itself as it pokes fun at other popular musicals like West Side Story and Le Mis. In the apparent end, Hope, the good daughter of the evil tyrant, appears to lead the people to victory and reform. She proclaims, "Now you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you want, wherever you want." This is the beginning of an era of joy and justice. However, the play does not end but then very quickly shifts to its darker ending:
"Of course, it wasn't long before the water became silty, brackish, and then dried up all together. Cruel as Caldwell B. Cladwell was, his measures effectively regulated water consumption, sparing the town the same fate as the phantom Urinetown. Hope, however, chose to ignore the warning signs, choosing instead to bask in the people's love as long as it lasted... Hope eventually joined her father in a manner not quite so gentle. As for the people of this town? Well, they did the best they could. But they were prepared for the world they inherited, weaned as they were on the legend born of their founding father's scare tactics. For when the water dried up, they recognized their town for the first time for what it really was. What it was always waiting to be...
This is Urinetown!
Always it's been Urinetown!
This place it's called Urinetown!"
In dramatic fashion, the play ends with all the characters paying homage to Thomas Malthus, proclaiming, "Hail Malthus!"

Thus, hidden behind the satire, comedy, and rousing musical numbers is a deep commitment to a nihilism that declares that death can only be staved off and will eventually come for us. No matter what we do we always live in the shadow of the Abyss. Every town will eventually become Urinetown.

The end of the play thus becomes a tribute to death. Or, in the words of Officer Lockstock, "This is not a very happy play." Sadly, this appears to reflect the viewpoint of much of pop culture.



Blogger Deep Furrows said...

thank you for this excellent review!

June 16, 2006 3:29 PM  

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