Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The light in the piazza

This past weekend my mother turned 86. To celebrate, my brother and I joined my folks for the weekend. It had been a while since the four of us were together like this and it was a joyous few days.

On the birthday night itself we all went to see The Light in the Piazza, a musical that had played in Lincoln Centre several years ago. I'd actually seen it then and had been impressed by the staging as much as the story. I am one of those people who has to listen to a song a dozen times before I get it, so while I got the general gist of the musical at first viewing, it was only after seeing it again, that I was able to appreciate it in its nuances.

The story appears to be simple. A woman takes her daughter, Carla, to Florence. The two of them are there to explore the city. The mother reads a guidebook that explains the various sights. What occurs one day is that the wind blows the hat off of Carla's head and it, serendipitously, is caught by a young man, Fabrizio. And in that moment when Fabrizio sees Carla to return the hat, the two are smitten. Subsequently problems develop and we, in the audience, wait to see what will occur between them.

Pretty standard plot. Boy meets girl. Tension surfaces for this reason or that. Boy and girl may or may not unite. I'll not reveal the ending.

But what is central to the story transcends the plot. You can take a guide book and try to explore this or that, but what we are really seeking beyond any landmark is that light in the piazza that is our true love. Understanding the value of that light, and respecting its significance, can render a simpleton a wiseperson. And vice versa, not acknowledging the value of the light, can render an otherwise bright person to be a fool.

At breakfast on the morning of the day we went to the show, my dad made a little speech before he drank his orange juice. He talked about how grateful he was that he had met my mother when he was 16 years old. And what a delight it was to be able to share this birthday with her as he had shared the others and would, knock on wood, share more in the future.

In essence, in his little talk he had summarized the play that we would see that night. There is nothing more important than finding the light in the piazza.

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