Yep. You can catch all three in intimate relationship right now in the musical "Ragtime" at the Ogunquit Playhouse through August 26.
Among the many high performance treats of summer in Maine, the 85-year-old Ogunquit Playhouse, on the National Register of Historic Places, with its legacy of being "America's Foremost Summer Theatre," is surely near the top.
Especially when history nicely synchronizes itself with the theater's production calendar, as it does currently with its production of "Ragtime," based on the 1975 E.L. Doctorow novel of the same name.
It's the story of a talented black musician, humiliated by some working class white men, who seeks his revenge in a bomb-throwing, hostage-taking kind of way.
And, as a parallel narrative, an oppressed Jewish immigrant who makes good in America's nascent film world and marries up.
|The face of Lady Liberty graces the|
Ogunquit Playhouse's production
You can't make this stuff up - I mean, wait, you don't have to. It's all in our headlines, right now. Don't forget, this season had to have been planned and cast at least a year ago. The fates of current events are shining on "Ragtime"'s relevance.
A child of the tumultuous 1970's myself, I love that "Ragtime" is oft described as "a unique adaptation of the historical narrative genre with a subversive 1970s slant" -- by which its describers mean that it's author wielded a distinctly politicized, progressive point of view.
The musical's beating heart is a score based in the gorgeous genre of music of the same name, which, with its melding of African-American jazz to pop, came to define the U.S. during the opening of the 20th century. But its story is pure National Book Award winner Doctorow's.
In an effort to educate middle-class white Americans on our history, Doctorow wrote several pastiches, bringing together motley assortments of historical characters to provide us with a snapshot of the political and social history and turmoil that defined the U.S. during the 20th century.
"Ragtime" was his first in this genre, bringing together to the page and later to the stage the anarchist activist Emma Goldman; the pop-culture, Hungarian immigrant sideshow hero Harry Houdini; the "notorious socialite" Evelyn Nesbit, lover of murdered architect Sanford White; financier/robber baron J.P. Morgan; and black, turn-of-the-century politician Booker T. Washington. Its protagonists are the African-American ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker, modeled on a 19th century German novella of a similar name; the Jewish immigrant artist, Tateh and his daughter; and the eponymous "Mother" -- who surprises with her fierceness.
You can't watch this musical -- even without the subliminal reminder of Lady Liberty looking out over the audience during the pre-show and entre'act -- without your heart swelling for America's oppressed groups -- its immigrants, its former slaves -- to be victorious over the wealthy white family from New Rochelle against whom they are based. So for those of you who prefer Republican policies on these matters: come prepared to be transformed.
Yet as with any good and true story, the conflicts are not easily resolved. Will the musical's underdog protagonists -- Coalhouse, Tateh -- triumph in the end? With the use of violence, following the radicalism of Goldman; or of political persuasion, in the mode of Booker T. Washington?
That is for all of you not only to witness at the Playhouse, but to play your own supporting role for in our country right now, as we circle back around on these yet-to-be-resolved issues of the who, what, why, and how of being an American.