Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When Life and Art Come Face to Face

A cropped picture of Mandy Patinkin posing wit...Image via Wikipedia
I'm a stingy person, if not by nature, then by choice. Part of this is due to shyness, but I claim no legitimacy for that excuse. I am embarrassingly like the passersby in Jesus' parable of "The Good Samaritan" (Luke 10). These thoughts were triggered on a recent Saturday night in Berkeley, CA. 

Esther and I were walking along Shattuck Avenue on our way to a Berkeley Repertory production of a new play, Compulsion, starring Mandy Patinkin. I'm a suburban guy--have been all my life. I venture out to cities like San Francisco and Berkeley (my East Bay equivalent) only when I have to, or there's something I really want to see or do there. 

A number of beggars--most of them in their late teens, early twenties--lined the sidewalks. We passed an elderly woman standing alone at a street corner. Esther said, "She seems lost." I kept walking. Mentally, I was calculating. How long will it take to dial 9-1-1 and wait for assistance to arrive? We'd probably be late for the play--or miss it entirely (expensive orchestra tickets down the drain). Maybe she's not lost at all. When I didn't respond, we kept walking.

Based on a true story, Rinne Groff's Compulsion is a moving and highly creative rendition of the Anne Frank story and legacy. Patinkin plays Mr. Sliver, a thinly veiled fictionalization of real-life author Meyer Levin. Silver's personal obsession with Anne (as he imagines her) and his compulsion to get her story out to the world, drive him to the brink of insanity. The Holocaust theme--all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing--was not lost on me. 

One of the Scripture readings of the Catholic liturgy this week was from the Book of Proverbs (3:27): "Do not hold back from those who ask your help, when it is in your power to do so." 

A conscience-stinging play, the image of that seemingly lost woman, the wounded Samaritan, and the practical wisdom of Proverbs--lots of challenging spirits living in my house this week.

(c) 2010 by Alfred J. Garrotto
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