Monday, January 30, 2012

The Voice of the Turtle Asks If We Are Ready for an American Spring

I got up to Lowell this weekend to see a 69-year-old play, The Voice of the Turtle, at the Merrimac Repertory Theatre. The late January weather has been unseasonably warm and sunny and has felt almost like an early spring.

The play is set over an early spring April weekend in New York City in 1943. The main characters are a sergeant on leave from the U.S. Army and a young actress living in an apartment in the East Sixties near 3rd Avenue. They are thrown together for the weekend through happenstance, and love blossoms as you might expect.

(Photo by Megan Moore)

A very lovely Hanley Smith plays the sweet young actress and a suitable William Connell plays the serviceman. I say suitable because a man can't watch him play opposite Hanley Smith without arousing a little jealousy. Megan Byrne rounds out the cast as the three who makes a crowd.

The servicemen is a little jaded being seven years gone from living the gay (1940s gay, not 2010s gay) life of a playboy in Paris before his family's business succumbed to the Great Depression and called him home to Pittsburgh. All he's got to show for that are his noncommissioned sergeant's stripes - a former one percenter in today's parlance. He's about to go overseas to fight for freedom, although as he says you don't ask a soldier what he's fighting for.

And that's where the play dovetails with our own times. The times they are not so much a-changin' as depressin' is the song we've all been listening too. But perhaps we need to open our ears to the song of the turtle dove:

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone;
the flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
the fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

The Song of Solomon 2:10-13 (King James version)
It is coincidentally the anniversary of the Arab Spring, the well-intentioned pro-democracy movement that probably will not turn out well. So are we ready for our own American Spring? We are probably not going to find that at a tea party rally or an occupy camp. We may be looking for that in politics when we really need to look inside ourselves. In truth it's probably not something we can find by going looking for it. But you never know. I think I will listen for the voice of the turtle.

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