If a musician composes music that he never sells, because he prefers “not to sell his baskets,” but instead he becomes an insurance salesman, resulting in nobody in his lifetime ever hearing his brilliance, can he still feel fulfilled and successful?
If actors perform a brilliant play about the essence of life, if they give their all, if the production is incontestably a work of great art, but only ten people come to see it, is it still worth doing?
If lungs breathe, if bodies throb, if a heart breaks, and there are only ten witnesses, does it even matter?
These are some of the questions playing ping pong in my cranium this morning after yesterday’s remarkable experience watching playwright Jessica Dickey’s remarkable 75-minute masterpiece Charles Ives Take Me Home. Oh, how I want to insert a comma after Ives, but I’ll respect her work. How could I not? This tour de force about a father and daughter, about music and basketball, about life and death and everything in between demands respect.
“How can it be?” demand my inner ping pong players. “If somebody actually does it—writes a flawless story that is directed flawlessly (by Daniella Topol) and performed with a level of skill, authenticity, musicality (yes, there is music), and heart by three actors (Drew McVety, Kate Nowlin, and Henry Stram) who are so perfectly in tune with the text and each other that even a perfectionist like me cannot find one flaw, how can it not attract lines around the block and the kind of adulation that is wasted on one-note pop stars?”
In this nonlinear but perfectly comprehensible story about a violinist father and a basketball-loving daughter who can’t seem to harmonize or even play in the same room during his lifetime, Charles Ives acts as the kind of transcendent guide we all need. He is both a real character in this three-instrument symphony (he briefly teaches the father when they are both at Juilliard) and a great Light that somehow sees no conflict about singing your heart out but not being heard.
So, Mr. Ives and Ms. Dickey, I suppose that answers my questions: That he wrote the music was apparently enough. That she wrote the play and the actors played it has to be enough. That little ol’ me and a handful of others felt our hearts burst . . . Well, it has to be enough . . . because that’s the way it is . . . Isn’t it?
But must it be? If I write it loud enough, if I post it on Facebook and Twitter and call all my friends, maybe others will hear too. Here is what I want you to hear:
Charles Ives Take Me Home does the impossible: it takes you Home. Run, don’t walk. This magnificent work of art is available for your witness through June 29th. Click on the picture to get all the information to go Home.
(Thanks, Ms. Dickey. You were right; I feel okay now. Writing this is indeed enough.)