Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Along with Boston Ballet’s Black and White, I’ve gone to three performances in the past few weeks: ASP’s The Duchess of Malfi, New Rep’s Cabaret, and New Voices @ New Rep’s staged reading of Meron Langsner’s The Devil’s Own Game. I’m trying to take advantage of my proximity to a cultural center.

The plays each feature a refreshingly strong female lead character, and hinge on her pursuit of personal fulfillment. The widowed duchess of 1508 secretly chooses a new husband, and not one of whom her brothers approve. Sally Bowles of 1930 rejects becoming a wife and mother, deciding instead to resume her career and a carefree social life. Johanna in The Devil’s Own Game is a modern solitary scientist who decides that her dream of a better world is worth repeated sparring with Faustus and Mephistopheles. There’s a real sense of progress both in the choices that these characters make and in how they are treated for making those choices: the duchess is killed, Sally Bowles is making her way in a deteriorating Berlin, and Johanna’s future is bright.

I love the notion that our most important choices have predictable, comprehensible, or even knowable consequences. Theater presents a world where that’s true, because compelling stories generally involve choices and consequences. The duchess, Sally Bowles, and Johanna all live within that narrative conceit, and for 2-3 hours at a time, so can I.

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