We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Leonard Bernstein in his Harvard Lectures on music, gave six criteria for judging good music: five were technical (beat, harmony and such); the sixth was does it hit directly to the heart. Light in the Piazza hits the heart, multiple times --despite its music and lyrics, because of its story of hope and its actors. I sat second row center. I saw the mother's, Victoria Clarke's, tears, quiet tears, sometimes noticeable as a glistening, or only as she touched her gloved hand to her cheek. She appeared moved, as if living the story for the first time, despite performing eight times weekly. It's the story that can sound puerile if not performed well. When it is performed well, it raises hope, it touches heart. A mother and her young adult daughter visit Florence. Mother later tells the audience that she visited once before, with her husband before her only childm and warns us, never to visit Italy with dreams, for dreams can be dashed there. But in this tale, a dream is formed and brought to life. Her daughter, quite beautiful (Katie Clark, in her Broadway debut) receives distractedly, mother's guidebook lectures on Florence, on art, on the quality of light in Florence, which artists sought in order to see more clearly. Her daughter Clara, is seen clearly by a young man, Fabrizio (Aaron Lazar) in a Piazza, and he sees her as if she were painted by a Renaissance artist. He falls in love, he stumbles through his English, falls backon his Italian and she gets it. What he does not understand -- and her the language difference is a savior of love and hope -- is that Clara is a bit slow. A head injury at ten left her a bit slower than others. She is bright enough to know, to feel this; perhaps she recalls a time when her brain worked better, as did a patient I once interviewed. She demonstrates a naivete, a social simplicity in the way she approaches strangers, announces that this is their first visit, that she is from North Carolina. Or in a frightening episode, she lights out to meet her Fabrizio at midnight, loses her way and is accosted by pimps and whores, then retrieved by her mother.
The story comes to epiphany as her mother realizes that her daughter could have a more complete life, does not have to be condemned to the solitude that can melt into loneliness. Her extended Italian family will complete Clara's life; her Fabrizio adores her and will worship her as we worship the elegant work of Michangelo's or DaVinci's hands. Mother's epiphany extends to her realization that there has not been love between she and her husband and that she once experienced the hope of true love. Fabrizio's father, at one tense moment refusing the marriage when he learns that Clara is six years older than Fabrizio, on a walk with mother, recalls his youth of hope and love, a youthful love he forsook. The story brings hope into our hearts. The actors carry the story. My brief, nonmusical comment about the lyrics and music is that I could not leave the theater with a tune in my head, at least not from the musical. I was humming West Side Story, "Maria," that love song built on the Devil's Tritone by Bernstein. It seems to me that since at least Sondheim, some composers work at constructing show tunes that are not lyrical. The composer and lyricist, Guettel, did this for Light in the Piazza. The director, Barlett Sher, actors and story overcame this obstacle. I scanned the audience at one point, as Clara says plaintiively that she cannot leave her mother the morning of the wedding. Her mother reassures her that she can. The audience was transfixed. Aristotle asked that in part, poetry (drama) be mimetic, imitate life. Here, the drama imitates that part of life that lifts our hearts and hopes. For this, I am thankful.