“His name, we have learned, is Benny…”


I picked up Rent at the library tonight after work. There are parts of it that I enjoy, but for the most part it just doesn’t read to me. It doesn’t… It doesn’t hit.

I live and work in a world where many fields of the construction industry just suffered a fairly devastating winter. A world where people are now struggling more than usual to feed their families, keep up with rent and mortgages, to keep gas in the car to get to work, to keep money on hand so the kids can buy lunch at the museum on field trip day…

Make your art, live your life, be free, be light. Fine. But someone is paying out gobs of cash on that building you live in. And you want to turn the lights on? Somebody has to pay the electric bill. You want to get mad at the guy who shuts off that power? That’s your choice. But man: There is clearly something you are ignoring if you’re going to peg your freedom to play your drum at the same importance level as a roofer putting in extra hours at work so he can get health insurance for him and his kids ’cause his wife left him and he can’t get a job that pays enough to support their kids.

Like the millions around and before me I’m entertained by watching the struggle to make art in an environment that’s unsupportive toward that type of creation. Sure. Fine. That’s what a plot is. There’s a thing you want. A conflict. A resolution. And I’m drawn to conflicts involving art and creativity because I like art and creativity!

But the message of “Rent,” of stories like it… It’s not “the boiled down essence of what’s important in life” or whatever the heck these things tout themselves to be. It’s the boiled down essence of “You’re missing the point just as much as the Man you’re railing against.”

But with dancing.

Things I’ve really liked so far:

  1. When Collins and Angel are leaving for their Life Support meeting and Angel says “Bye!” and then does this little hop thing. Very cute.
  2. The tango scene with Mark and Joanne. Makes me want to start wearing suspenders and dating guys who went to Hebrew school.
  3. Collins holding Angel in the hospital bed and the final reprise of “I’ll Cover You.”
  4. Pretty much anything Joanne does.


Things that kinda bug me:

  1. How much Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal sound exactly alike. This has bothered me for years.
  2. How unattractive Rosario Dawson is in this. I mean- I’m not a huge Rosario fan anyway. She’s not ugly, but she’s nothing to write home about. But in this? Well… she’s leggy. And that’s good at least, right?
  3. The movie version of the “Santa Fe” opening bit. I prefer the musical’s vocals on it. And Collins is so much goofier physically here than he’s been up to this point in the movie so it seems put-on. We needed to see this side of him sooner to believe it now so late in the movie.
  4. Pretty much everything Maureen says, sings, wears, or does. And where the heck did she get the money to buy all that stuff in her stage show? I know I know– “But Ruth! It’s Idina Menzel!” I don’t care. The “Over the Moon” scene was lame and you know it.
  5. Maureen in general. “Every night who’s in your bed?” The same person that wasn’t trying to convince everyone they ran into all day that they had a chance to be in that bed, too! Marry me or don’t, but if you do: It’s me. It’s just me. And so help you God if you hit on the champagne girl at the ceremony. We are SO done speaking on that day!
  6. The affected self-awareness and the pseudo-hippie nouveau-bourgeois-intellectual pretension of, well, all of it.

Can you tell I’m writing this as I watch it?

*********************************************************

I had a weird experience on the way home from the library. I stopped at the Family Dollar by the video store. I like to go there sometimes to buy little $1 packs of hair clips and things. Retail therapy I guess, right? I found a calendar where I’m going to write upcoming shows for next season at different theatres, a bag of bite size Chick-O-Sticks, a bottle of knock-off Clinique Happy, mascara, STP gas tank cleaner, 4 oz. of rubber bands, and liquid eyeliner. $8 bucks. $3 of which went to the perfume. Cheapest therapy session ever.

I’m at the check out counter, and the woman behind it won’t look up. She’s heavy-set, pony-tail, maybe mid to late 20s. Her eyes are moist and she’s fumbling with the things in my basket. I try asking her very quietly if she’s okay. I know it’s sort of a stupid question, but I can’t think of anything else to say and I can’t see someone crying and just say nothing at all.

So then I just stood there. Dumb. Feeling like a cad and an idiot.

She held my receipt in her hand but didn’t hold it out very far; I had to reach in to grab it. So I just– I grabbed on to her hand and held it real tight and I looked up and her face immediately went bright red and she just started bawling right there behind the register.

I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I mean– what do you say?

“Jesus loves you?”

“It’s almost Friday?”

“Don’t worry we get to vote in a new one soon?”

All my available words were stupid so I just held on real tight  until this dad-aged guy came up behind me in line.

I left. Like we all do.

I hope she’s okay.

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