This past Friday night we jumped back in to the pool of Tony Kushner at the Guthrie. While the buzz around town last year about Kushner-fest was all about the world premiere of his new play, the buzz around town for the past month has been about his other show – Caroline, or Change. It’s a musical, or more accurately, an operetta, as there are no truly spoken words. I wasn’t expecting that (the operetta part) but it gives the whole show an imaginative and playful quality, almost as if it’s all in the head and mind of Caroline. Or, actually, possibly, Noah. (That could be argued, I guess.) It’s a quality in sharp contrast to the harsh realism of The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide....
One of the most striking things about this piece is that after watching approximately nine hours of Kushner’s work over the past few weeks, this was an incredibly simplistic and straightforward plot. There weren’t multiple story lines and overly complicated relationships.
There was a black maid working in a Jewish home in the South at the time of the Kennedy assassination. And both families (the maid’s and her employer’s) were struggling with their own griefs and challenges and family dynamics.
But just like much of his other work this show has imaginitive elements like the fact that the moon, washing machine and dryer all sing! (They were awesome.) And, even more so, as he’s wont to do with his people, these are deeply rooted characters.
After the show, the more I thought about it, the more we discussed it all, the more I realized and the more I loved this show. This was a very moving piece of theatre with some truly shining performances. There’s overwhelming desire and despair, with a glimmer of hope peeking around the corners….I cared about all of them.
That’s something, by the way, that didn’t happen with that new play.
On a side note, even though the big G’s been open in its new space for….two years now? Somehow this was the first show I’ve seen on the thrust stage. Of course, it’s virtually identical to the original theater, with few exceptions. Nonetheless it was kind of eery to walk out to a completely different lobby – and a lobby that has no comparisons.