Monday, April 18, 2011

American Hystery, Dept.

Your sobsister rides the subway to work.  Here in Choc City, the subway is called a "Metro," the sound of which conjures up Parisian romance, even as the experience conjures up Dantean expiation of what must have been horrible, horrible sins on Earth.  If Washington has been described as a city of southern efficiency and northern charm, the Metro is a transportation system of Nigerian efficiency and North Korean charm.  While the frisson of sudden and unexpected death by incompetence does shake the previous night's sleep from passengers each morning, it is not, on the whole, a pleasant experience.  And, by ironic understatement, I mean to say everyone associated with Metro--and here I'm looking at the person who let out the contract for installation and maintenance of the system's escalators--should be horsewhipped, if not daily, at least weekly.  At least weekly.  Maybe thrice a fortnight.  Which is pronounced "Cholmondley."

Anyhoo.  Every day, I wait for the Metro homebound, and I stare across at the facing platform, on which there is a backlit sign for a new show at Ford's Theatre.  The venue will likely be familiar to you as the place where Abraham Lincoln took in most of Our American Cousin.  And currently the theater is presenting a musical titled Liberty Smith.

Now, I don't claim to have psychic powers, you know, since the cease-and-desist, but, one look at that ad triggered what might be latent mutant tendencies.  The poster transparency shows the title character, a fellow, affable in appearance, seated with a colonial American flag in his lap.  I looked at the image, looked at the name of the production and intuited a show wherein the aformentioned Liberty Smith "happened" to have been comically present at key moments in revolutionary-era America.  Maybe he told Betsy Ross that concentric circles wouldn't work as well as stars and stripes.  Maybe he told Thomas Jefferson that once he went black, he would not, in fact, go back.  Something along those lines, all whimsical and juvenile and easily digestible.

So, today, after a few weeks of staring at that ad while waiting for the train, I went to the Ford's Theatre Web site and read the synopsis of Liberty Smith.  And it goes something like this:

Ford’s Theatre presents the world premiere of Liberty Smith, a madcap musical romp through Revolutionary America. A childhood friend of George Washington, apprentice to Benjamin Franklin and linked to Paul Revere’s remarkable ride, the elusive Liberty Smith weaves his way through familiar tales of a young nation.

As they say, nothing but net.  Madcap net.

Now, you may ask, will I find love or who will win the Stanley Cup or when will a cure for cancer be found?  My nascent powers, I believe, confer upon me a sacred trust to use them wisely, sparingly and well.  Further, regarding the Stanley Cup, I think I'd rather inventory the earthworms in my back yard than devote a scintilla of thought to the most pointless of the generally pointless array of professional sports.  But were you to ask: How is Liberty Smith?  As two teams of wild horses would be woefully inadequate to drag me down to the theater, I'll supply a few choice quotes from the Washington Post's reviewer: "this energetic if flavor-deprived waltz through American revolutionary history...[is] a harmless riff on what spills out of every elementary school history text...The predicaments seem inspired by lame skits from long-ago TV variety shows."  Funnily enough, none of this is quoted in the ad, which someone very carefully crafted from the handful of phrases in the review that didn't damn with faint meh.

So, yes, Liberty Smith.  Exactly what out-of-towners expect of a Washington show and about what they deserve.  I keep wanting to call it "Liberty Jones," except that would be the title for a Bing Crosby musical number of my imagining, circa 1940, featuring a goggle-eyed pickaninny shoeshine boy who dreams of being elected to a White House surrounded by cotton fields and watermelon patches, with a Secretary of Fried Chicken and a federal tap dancing holiday.  "Liberty (Liberty!) His momma named him Liberty (Liberty!), 'Cause he'll set all the dark people free."

At any rate, pastiche pool's closed, kids.  It's time to retire for the evening to face down another day tomorrow.  And so, as another blogger once wrote, to bed.

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