Saturday, October 18, 2008


The title of Tom Stoppard's latest play never fails to remind me of Guitar Wolf and Wild Zero. Which is among the better of reminisces. And, perhaps, among the better of comparisons?

Rock'n'Roll tells the story of Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia, from the point of view of someone who couldn't care less about Vaclav Havel, but absolutely loved Pink Floyd. In the point of view of the main character, a band called "The Plastic People of the Universe", a rock band, really brought about the end of the soviet republic, and were able to "live in the truth" (not his words, Havel's) even when the intellectual dissidents of the time were inable to, simply because they didn't care about the power structures, they cared only about music.

The general sense that the play gives is that freedom, and change, comes from the uncontrollable -- art, music, love; possibly Sex Drugs and Rock'n'Roll in particular -- and not from your ideals, your opinions, or other intellectual bases. (He brings Sappho into this. I now want to read Sappho. And re-read Havel, of course). So, in Rock'n'Roll, Rock and Roll saves humanity from invading soviet communists enforcing conformity (as opposed alien zombie hordes in Wild Zero).

Of course, my favorite parts were (1) an argument about Havel between two characters, and (2) Possibly the most feel-good ending you will ever see in Stoppard (the good guys won! love and music triumphed! The Rolling Stones played in Prague!). The last scene and a half were the kind of thing that, while watching, I was worried my smile muscles would cramp up. "Will you come with me?" "Yes." "To Prague?" "Yes." "Right now?" "Yes!" And the main character arguing that a bunch of disengaged mediocre rockers were the only people able to bring about the fall of the Soviet Union (as opposed to Havel and the intellectual dissidents) because they uniquely didn't care about fame, money, or power structures and therefore couldn't be bribed or bullied into conforming was, well, the circularity of it was awesome. And just the sort of thing I love Stoppard for.

I think I still like Arcadia better, for lines like "...we will be alone on an empty shore." "Then we will dance.", and for the fact that it provides, in my opinion, a direct contrast to the depressing determinism of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead with Thomasina; we know how her story ends and yet I feel like at the end of the story we don't know as well. Of course, the philosophy that allows Thomasina's uncertain fate in Arcadia is in fact the same philosophy that brings down the Czech Soviet Union in Rock'n'Roll, which is quite possibly an even greater achievement, unless you're a fan of the Doctor, in which case saving the life of one ordinary person is of more import than single-handedly causing Vesuvius to blow or (one assumes) bringing about the fall of the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia.

I have put off this post since Thursday because my thoughts are not yet crystallized (that will require reading it several times I think) and because life got crazy. Well, sort of. Two weeks ago, I was bored and had nothing to do, so I signed up for a bunch of new activities. I may have signed up for too many activities, it turns out. I don't think so, not quite, but the thought crossed my mind when I didn't get to sleep until 2 or sleep past 7:30 for five days in a row.

Now, if only I could find a friend; someone who I could talk into going to see Tom Stoppard's latest play with me on a Thursday night, even if we both have discussion session at 9 am on Friday. I talked to about 20 people, all of whom had other commitments (in many cases, sleeping). Really, the only thing that would have made the evening better would have been someone to gibber with about the play while taking the train home. Or at intermission. Or, you know, ever.

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