My Day: Peter Selgin’s “The Inventors”

Sometimes you read a book for no good reason.  You pick it off the shelf and open it up.Sometimes you read a book that seems to have little connection to you, that does not deal with any subject that you are interested in.  You just like the way the book looks, or feels.  And sometimes you are helped by a blurb on the cover (yes, of course, I know that blurbs often highlight fake news).  Here the blurb was by Oliver Sacks, who praised the writing ability of the author.  You pay no attention to the fact that you have never heard of the writer or, for that matter, of the publisher, Hawthorne Books and Literary Arts, of Portland Oregon.

The book is a beautifully written memoir, that just carried me along, even though nothing extraordinary happens.  The author, who now teaches at a university in Georgia, grew up in Connecticut.  His mother was his father’s third wife – she was a beautiful Italian woman who never quite learned English and probably would have done better if she had never met her much older husband.  The author was a twin, a rather rare twin who didn’t (and still doesn’t seem to) get along with his twin brother.  His father was a fascinating, if somewhat irascible guy, an inventor, who formerly worked for the Bureau of Standards but was born in Italy and spoke a bevy of European languages fluently, and wrote books (mainly unpublished) on a variety of subjects.  But it turned out that there was something about this Roman Catholic atheist father that Selgin only found out about at his father’s funeral – he was born Jewish, and was a descendant of two prominent Italian Jewish families.  Who knew?

Selgin seems to have been a fairly ordinary kid (that’s good), who had a series of epiphanies in the eighth grade, when he met a new teacher, probably no more than 10 or 12 years his senior, and became the proverbial teacher’s pet.  Well, maybe not proverbial, because this was not a case of a teacher simply favoring one particular student, but of a teacher who seemed to want to spend all of his time with this student, almost every day, after school at his rented house, where they would discuss all sorts of intellectual things, and drink tea. (And, I think, did nothing else.)  But it turns out that the teacher, who disappeared after a year or so and went traveling, was also not what he pretended to be.  He was not a Rhodes Scholar, as he said he was, but a community college graduate.  But his influence on Selgin’s life was a profound as a Rhodes Scholar’s would have been.

So both of these men, his biggest influences, had lied about their pasts and reinvented themselves.  And Selgin needed to reinvent himself, too.  His brother had a straight academic experience, but Selgin needed to figure out who he was, including hitchhiking to Oregon to find his former teacher and to learn that you cannot recapture the past.  And he became a commercial artist, and a writer, and a teacher, and he married and divorced, and he had a daughter whom he doesn’t see often enough.  Most of this is pretty ordinary, or at least not earth shattering, but Selgin’s way of expressing himself is not ordinary at all, and it is this talent that makes all the difference.

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My Day: Waking Lions (by Ayelet Gundar-Goshan)

A Beersheva based neurosurgeon takes his Mercedes SUV out for a desert spin late one night.  With Janis Joplin playing in the background, he hits someone. He stops his car and gets out, and sees an African man, an Eritrean, undoubtedly in Israel illegally, and he’s not dead, but he’s dying and cannot be saved.  So he leaves the man where he was hit, gets back in his SUV, and drives home.  Hit and run.

He doesn’t tell his wife.  How could he?  She’s a police detective in Beersheva and, as you would expect, she’s assigned the case.

Even the perfect crime often has a fatal flaw, and this crime was far from perfect.  The biggest flaw? Our scofflaw neurosurgeon dropped his wallet at the scene, and he and the dead Eritrean were not alone.  There was a witness to the crime.  An Eritrean woman, the wife of the victim.  She picks up the wallet, learns the identification of the driver, and sees his address in suburban Omer.  And she makes it a point to go to his house in Omer, and return the wallet in person.

Things go downhill from there.  The widowed Eritrean woman, who happens to speak fluent Hebrew, is not out for revenge.  She is not looking for money.  She is on a mission of mercy (well, as we find out, not completely), and she needs a doctor.  She needs a doctor to treat sick and wounded illegal Eritreans in a makeshift hospital she has constructed in an abandoned garage in a small Negev kibbutz.

At first, it’s just a matter of lying to his wife.  “I have to work late tonight.”  “Someone is ill and I have to fill in tonight”.  “There are some after-duty surgeries I need to perform tonight.”  But then more is at stake.  He needs drugs for his “patients”; he needs to perform an emergency surgery in the garage and needs someone to administer anesthesia.

His wife is getting suspicious, but after all, she has her own problems.  She has to find out who killed that Eritrean and ran.  Perhaps they have found the person – a young Bedouin boy, who admits to having been driving in the area, but who says that he didn’t hit anyone.  Does he have a witness to vouch for him?  Will that solve his problem?  And what of our hero?  Can he let this boy be accused of the crime he himself has committed?

Eritreans, Bedouins, Jews.  Accidental manslaughter, an honor killing, a purposeful murder and several savage attempts. Drug running.  Police investigations. The life of a doctor in the south of Israel.  Will his marriage survive?  Will he be found out?  Will he lose his ability to practice medicine?  Will he wind up in prison?

It’s a nasty book, an uncomfortable book set in a place that the author makes as uncomfortable as she can.  Israel and crime and the underworld and not even any Palestinians. But a caste society – and a haven for white (or Jewish?) privilege.  And a danger for anyone with darker skin, native and legitimate, or illegally in the country.  And what is the responsibility of a doctor?  Who can be treated, who cannot?

Our neurosurgeon starts out as an angry young man, living in a city other than the one he wants to live in as a result of a problem with a former supervisor.  He winds up living two lives at once and, as you might expect, sometimes he doesn’t really know which is the better life, which is better for him.  But, as I say, this is a book about white privilege (or Jewish?).  And that’s how it ends.

Interesting book.  Read it in a day.  You might want to look at it.

My Day: Viktor Suvorov, the Liberator

Viktor Suvorov is a tough guy to try to figure out.  He’s a Russian born, British living writer, a former intelligence officer of the Soviet Army, who defected to England in the late 1970s.  He’s written 15 or so books.  I have just read one of them, the only one I have ever read, The Liberators, ostensibly about his time in the Soviet army between 1966, when he joined, and 1968.  It’s a caustic book, published in 1981, filled with humor and irony, one of those many satirical anti-war books of that era.

But reading it, I became confused.  It is listed as a non-fiction book, yet the incidents within the Soviet military that he describes, filled with mindless cruelty, and utter sloppiness and incompetence, are hard to fathom as historical narrative.   How to know what is fact, what is embellished fact, and what is fiction, when you can’t possibly figure it out yourself. My thought was to turn to reviews of the book when it was first published.  I read three reviews from reputable publications and discovered that each reviewer was as confused as I was.  I guess this was Suvorov’s goal.

From the first chapter (why did he join the military) to the last (his take on saving Czechoslovakia for socialism), humor sets the stage.  He started out on a collective farm after a new form of fertilizer was developed, which was going to so revolutionize Soviet agriculture that massive amounts of were made and the collectives told to pick up large amounts of the fertilizer.  They were given a very short window of time to cart away the fertilizer.  Of course none could work within the time limit, in part because traffic was so backed up since everyone had to be doing the same thing at the same time.  Rather than the 100 or more trips that would be required, they could only make one or two.  And had they been able to make 100 trips and bring 100 truckloads of fertilizer, they would have nowhere to put it.  And this was not only the problem of Suvorov’s (that wasn’t his name yet) collective, but of all the collectives.  A unique way of handling the problem was developed, however, requiring the cooperation of all the drivers (Suvorov was a driver), who took all of the fertilizer and dumped it into the Dnieper, not far from the pickup site, bringing only one load to their collective, thus making everyone happy.

Until further complications made it necessary for him to escape (something impossible for someone tied to a particular collective), and acquire forged identification papers so he could join the military…….

And that’s when the fun began. The Soviet notary comes off as inept, confused, fed by campaigns of misinformation and, perhaps most of all, cruel. Duvirov spends much of his time in what I would describe as military work camps, as harsh as anything you’d find in the gulag. No, I take that back – harsher. You wind up in these non-prisons by being arrested for some dereliction of duty. No, I take that back, too. You wind up in camp because it’s great sport for others to turn you in for dereliction of duty. You are sentenced to 5 or 10 days, but this can stretch into eternity for the same reason. What kind of work are you assigned? Oh, things like cleaning out by hand the septic tank at the dacha used by the wife of a high ranking officer (while he is with his mistress at a different dacha. For example.

And how about those Soviet military propaganda films? Well, they take all the manpower and equipment that should be used to protect the country. Heaven help the USSR if war breaks out while filming is going on.

And then there are the craftsmen – people who actually have a useful skill – who are treated royally while in the military and allowed to forget that they are even in the military.

And the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968? So sloppy that two different battalions were given instructions to gain control of the same Prague neighborhood. And the lesson learned from the invasion? Don’t send Russian troops to save a country that is so obviously doing better than home.

Well, now that I am reading what I wrote, I guess the nook is satire after all.

Or is it?

My Day: The Vagrant Trilogy

We had to change our regular seats at Mosaic Theater for its last show of the season, Mona Monsour’s “The Vagrant Trilogy” because of a conflict, and settled for the final show of the run, last Sunday afternoon.  The show, 3 1/2 hours long (two intermissions), was to start at 3 p.m.  But there was a problem with the electricity in the 1300 block of H Street NE (Washington DC) and, by the time power was restored, the start of the show was delayed until 5.  I ate an apple before the theater, but knew that my stomach would rumble during the show.

I knew that the show was about Palestinians.  This always raises a red flag for me, because I become fearful that the play will turn into a nasty political diatribe, good Arabs, bad Israelis.  But happily, this is not the type of story Monsour (an American playwright of Middle Eastern descent) chose to tell.  Or at least not the story that she told, or told to me.

It’s 1967, somewhere on the West Bank, then under Jordanian rule.  A young scholar (pushed by his mother, he becomes an expert on, of all people, William Wordsworth), and a younger girl who is intrigued by the young scholar, meet.  Soon, they are married, and on their first day in London, where the scholar, Adham, has been honored by University College, London as the foreign presenter at an annual literary conference, where he will speak about…..Wordsworth.  He is very nervous that he will fail (he doesn’t), and tensions arise between the young married couple – he is ill at ease with his English colleagues, but she charms them, in spite of her lack of English.  Ok, she knows a little – like she can say “thank you” and “to Sir with love”.

But then the Six Day War breaks out (it has not yet been given that name), and the university suggests that the couple stay in London, perhaps for a long time.  He is interested (his only relatives are his mother in Jerusalem, with whom he has a strange, strange relationship, and his much older brother who lives in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.  She wants to go home – family is the most important thing in her life.  They argue.  She packs her bag and says she is leaving him. End of Part One.

Parts Two and Three are interesting in that they each build upon what happened in the first portion of the trilogy, but they aren’t related to each other.  They are alternative versions of how Adham’s life could have turned out.

In Part Two, Adham had remained in London (and in fact Abir, his wife, has remained as well, or perhaps has returned to London after first going home), and he and Abir have divorced, but remained friends. Twenty years have passed, and Adham has remained at University College as a reader and is now up for a professorship.  He is still a Wordsworth expert, and he has been encouraged to think that his professorship is in the bag.  But things do not go as expected, and Adham feels himself a victim of his Palestinian Arab background, and a failure.

In Part Three, on the other hand, Adham had followed Abir back to the Middle East in 1967, but they had not got to the West Bank, and were living in a Palestinian refugee camp, still married, with two children, a son who had gotten into a scrape with a Lebanese soldier and wound up with cognitive disabilities, and a daughter graduating high school and desiring to continue her education (something rare for residents of the camp).  They also live with his brother, and her sister.  And their life, in their crowded shack, is constrained in every way.  Adham, the once brilliant scholar, is now an angry and withdrawn old man (he is in his 60s in Part Three), and feels himself a victim of his  Palestinian Arab background, and a failure.

So much to think about from these three one act plays.  How a choice can change one’s life.  How difficult it may be for some to succeed irrespective of their choices.  How unfair life can be based not upon one’s birth, or one’s education, or one’s family background, but on one’s ethnicity, on political realities of one’s time.  How important it is to have a home.  How no one should be stateless.  And it is part of Mansour’s mastery that she tells this all too real, all to sad tale without unduly maligning any group – or perhaps by maligning all groups equally – Israelis, Arabs, British.

I should add that the direction and staging seemed perfect, as was all of the acting, particularly Hadi Tabbal as Adham and Dina Soltan as Abir.  No, not particularly – the entire cast should be commended equally.

This was the world premiere staging of the trilogy.  May it be performed again and again.

One more thing. I did reread “…… Tinturn Abbey……” for the first time in 60 years. Good poem.

My Day: Emmett Till, and Now the Scottsboro Boys

Over the past few weeks, I have seen all three portions of The Till Trilogy by Ifa Bayeza.  Emmet Till, black, age 15, visiting family in the Mississippi Delta from Chicago in 1955 is kidnapped and brutally murdered (maybe all murders are brutal) by a group of men.  His “crime” was apparently whistling at a white woman store clerk; he was accused by his murders and the clerk of attacking her, but that never happened and she later recanted.  The murderers were found “not guilty”, not because there were no witnesses to the murder (there were, two black men who were kept locked up by the local sheriff), and not because there were no witnesses to the kidnapping (there were, but he was just a black man, and a relative of Till’s), and not because there weren’t contradictions in the “victim”‘s story (because there were), but because Till was black and the murderers weren’t.

Fresh off the Till crime, I decided to keep with the theme and read James Goodman’s Stories of Scottsboro, the earlier and equally sad story of nine black teenagers (ages 13-18) who were arrested in 1931 in the neighboring state of Alabama for attacking and raping two young white women (ages 17 and 24) on a train passing through the state.  All nine were innocent of this crime (and any other); the attack and the rape never occurred – some of the teenagers had never even seen the women on the train, and at least one was physically impossible of rape. This set in motion a never ending series of trials, convictions, appeals and overturns, that lasted until the last of the Scottsboro boys was paroled in 1950 (yes, 19 years later).  Again, the convictions (which carried the death penalty) was not based on the evidence (the stories of the victims and their male friend were each filled with contradictions and, as well, contradicted each other), not affected by the recanting of one of the two accusers within a matter of months, not based on medical evidence (no signs of foul play on the women, no signs of sperm from nine men, and not affected by the fact that both of the women (I am not be accusatory here) were active prostitutes with a mixed race clientele.  They were based on ruthless prosecution, and on the fact that the juries and jury pools were all white (the U.S. Supreme Court reversed one of the convictions on the ground that a racially pure jury pool was unconstitutional).

The trials and the legal defense provided an interesting story itself.  The Communist Party through the International Labor Defense and the NAACP vied for control of the defense – a compromise was reached (for a while) with the ILD controlling and the NAACP bowing out, but with the ILD hiring New York lawyer Samuel Liebowitz to lead the defense.  But this was not an easy compromise, and the combination of Communists and a New York Jewish lawyer did not sit well in the South and gave the supporters of the accusers some additional ammunition.  There were some liberals in Alabama, but their efforts didn’t seem to help, and the relatively progressive newspapers were not consistent one way or the other.

Another interesting facet of the book was the description of the Alabama prison system (three different prisons were the homes of various of the defendants at various times), and especially how blacks were treated by the guards, the use of violence by the system, the sexual hierarchy of the prisoners, the prevalence of long periods of solitary confinement, etc.  It’s a miracle that all nine kept alive throughout their prison years, with only one getting shot (in the head) by a guard, and one being beaten until he was near death.

Of course, the other side of the story is that, after their many year ordeal (no one was in prison fewer than 11 years), and their trials (one of the defendants was tried and convicted four separate times), that release did not mean freedom the way we would like to see it.  These were completely uneducated kids, who spent their prime years in terrible prison conditions where their health was affected, and who came out and were unable to adapt to society.  Some worked in menial jobs, some didn’t work at all, many of them had further relationships with the law.  Some died young – some disappeared.

One interesting factoid – in the South, these nine teenagers were called “men”, and in the North, they were the Scottsboro “boys”.  An absolute reversal of what you might expect.

Interesting book, and it comes with extensive notes and a very handy chronology.

My Day: Heading Home

The crowd was large and partisan.  Hundreds of people came to cheer on Team Israel, the country’s entry into the 2017 World Baseball Classic through the soon-to-be-released film, “Heading Home”.  Unfortunately, I thought it was a rather drab film about a relatively interesting subject.  But the fans of Team Israel, most of whom did not know there was a Team Israel until the one-night showing of the film at the Avalon Theatre in DC, loved it anyway.  The event was the semi-annual Ed Berkowitz Film Education Fund evening, held in honor of the late Edward Berkowitz, my friend and former law partner.

So, who even knew there was a World Baseball Classic, and the 2017 was its fourth year, a world wide tournament of nationally sponsored baseball teams.  And who knew that, for the first time, in 2017 there was an Israeli team.  Coming into the tournament it was ranked 41st, but it won the first round, and, although losing the second round to the Netherlands and Japan, finished the tournament as number 6.

The team had 28 members (that’s the rule), and only 2 of them were Israeli born, and all were American, but they were all eligible for Israeli citizenship, and this was the tournament rule.  Ten of them were American present or former Major League players.  Most of the others were American, as well.  Even the Major Leaguers were not big stars. They were all Jewish……sort of.  Some really were.  Some had only a Jewish grandparent, and grew up Baptist or Lutheran or nothing at all.  None of them seem to have been before to Israel for familiar with very much about Israel at all.  Their familiarity grows as they travel through Israel, seeing the sights and encouraging youth to play ball.

The movie tracks the formation of the team, the initial meetings of the players, and the games in the tournaments.  You see some real talent and you sense the personality of several of the team members.  You spend a lot of time with The Mensch on the Bench, the toy grown up into a mascot who followed the team everywhere.

But you don’t get a real feel for baseball in Israel (for example, the league of the early 2000s that failed but had Art Shamsky and Ken Holtzman (both Major Leaguers) as managers is not mentioned (and in the talk back after the film, the directors didn’t seem to know anything about it).  And you don’t see anything about the 18 team members who were not former major leaguers (I only know about the two who were Israeli born because of a question from someone in the audience), and you don’t see any intereaction with other teams in the tournament, and you don’t even learn who won the tournament.  I had to use Wikipedia for that.  The United States won (for the first time), followed by Puerto Rico, Japan and the Netherlands.

The tournament is scheduled every four years, so I guess we are talking about the next one being held in 2021.  As for the film, I understand that its official release will be in September.  In time for the playoffs.

My Day: Part 3 of the Till Trilogy

I have already written brief, glowing reviews of the first two portions of the Emmett Till Trilogy, written by Ifa Bayeza and produced at the Mosaic Theatre.  The first portion dealt with the murder of Emmett Till, a 14 year old African American from Chicago visiting his relatives in Mississippi.  The second concerned two families connected to the murder – the family of a white perpetrator, and the family of an African American witness.  The third section dealt with the trial of the killers, who were found Not Guilty.

At the end of the second part last week, Bayeza said that she was still working on the the third part.  I think there is more work to be done.  The one act reading was just shy of two hours long, and needs to be cut some.  And the story of the trial is interrupted by some dream scenes and flash backs that may not be necessary.

Much of the play is taken from the transcripts of the trial, although some things have apparently been reordered, and some characters combined.  The trial fascinated me, because (putting aside the segregated seating in Sumter County MS, the lack of consideration given to black journalists, the demeaning of black witnesses, and the all white jury) the testimony was such that, in any courtroom in America, the verdict might have been not guilty (although the jury may have been out longer than just one hour).

Why is this?  In large part because there were witnesses who lied.  This is obvious now, but perhaps not then.  It also may be because the prosecution did not really want to put on the best case it could have – this is not clear from the play; whether or not it is clear from historical research, I don’t know.  It also may be in part because the trial apparently was held only about three weeks after the murder.

Carolyn Bryant was the storekeeper who testified that Till, after she held out her hand to receive payment for certain items, (1) asked her for a date, (2) physically attacked her by putting his arms around her waist, and (3) whistled at her as she left the store.  We now know that at least (1) and (2) were not true – shortly before her death a few years ago, Bryant (now remarried with a new name) admitted that she had lied at the trial. The other witness who lied (at least this is what the play shows) was the county sheriff, who denied having in custody the two African American men who were forced by the four white murderers to come along with them when the act was committed.  They would have been the best witnesses to what had been going on – and of course, they were not there to testify.  The sheriff also testified that the body was destroyed beyond the possibility of identification, thus countering the testimony of Till’s mother.  The sheriff maintained that Till was alive and well, having fun somewhere in a northern state.

With the two most credible witnesses jailed, and with Till’s identification thrown into question, there was no one else who witnessed the crime.  The other major witnesses were two African American men, one of whom was Till’s relative with whom he was staying – the cross examination wanted to show it was too dark to tell who it was who kidnapped Till in the middle of the night.  The other witness was an 18 year old, who heard someone being beaten in a barn on the land of one of the defendants – here it was argued that this individual was too far away to really understand what was going on.  All of the black witnesses were called by the attorneys by their first names, and undoubtedly intimidated.

One of the defendants, J.W. Milam had owned the store where the trouble started and was a prominent businessman about town. Carolyn Bryant was his sister in law, and her husband was another defendant. After the trial, the blacks avoided his store and his other businesses, and his financial position had deteriorated.  To make some money, Milam and Bryant sold “their story” to Look Magazine for about $3500 and, while speaking to the Look reporter, admitted that they had murdered Till.  Until then, many in the towns of Sumter and Money believed their innocence, but no longer.  In addition, the locals wanted to forget about the tragedy and Milam’s admission and the Look story brought re notoriety. Milam and Bryant were, in effect, kicked out of town; the play’s final scene deals with this, but perhaps could deal with it better.  Milam and Bryant went to Texas and when things didn’t work out there, moved back to Mississippi.  Neither was a success in anything that they did subsequently, and both had continuing run-ins with the law.

I don’t know how much Bayeza is going to change part 3 of her Trilogy.  But I look forward to seeing what she does and how it finally turns out, so that it is a fitting close to her first two masterpieces.

My Day: Artificial Insemination

No, I was not involved today in any form of artificial insemination.  No, I am not talking about it as a meat-raising technique. No, I don’t even know whether or not I am using a politically correct, or politically current term.  But I have something interesting to tell you that I recently learned.

My wife’s first cousin visited us this weekend.  She grew up close to my wife, and they were good friends as well as cousins. Her parents were divorced when she was nine; her parents were my wife’s uncle and his first wife.

Some time ago, my wife learned that her uncle was probably not the biological parent, but that there had been some form of artificial insemination.  She did not know if her cousin was aware of this, so she never mentioned it.  But this weekend, when her cousin visited, it became clear that she knew about the artificial insemination.

Some time ago, my wife’s cousin decided to have her DNA checked because she was interested in what type of person her biological father was.  She discovered that her DNA was shared by a large number of individuals, and she got in contact with some of them.

It turns out that her father was a doctor/lawyer who acted as a sperm donor at one place for 30 years and who was, at the same time, married and the father of four in that marriage. She does not know how many children he “fathered”, but she came to DC last weekend for a conference of her half-siblings, and close to 50 showed up.   And that is probably only the tip of the iceberg.

OK, not much to do with this information, but it throws a different light on an important topic, doesn’t it?

My Day: The Remains

Ken Urban’s new one act play, “The Remains”, is having its world premier at Studio Theatre. I’d give it a mixed rating, and call it still a work in progress.

A gay male couple has been together for 17 years, and married under Massachusetts law for 10 of those years.  Their marriage is falling apart, and they have decided to get divorced and to announce their decision when they have the parents of one, and the sister of the other, over for dinner.  The announcement is a shock to their families, and the dinner does not go very well…..at all.

Well, in the first place, it isn’t surprising that this marriage is falling apart.  It seems to have been an “open” marriage from the beginning, and each side had numerous small , “affairs” with male partners over the years.  For a while, this seemed to have been OK, I guess, but……..probably not.  Something led the one partner, who had trouble getting a tenured professorship in the Boston area, to flee the city and wind up in a small town in Oregon, which he hated, with a tenured university position, which he hated.  The man he left behind, a lawyer, quickly met a new man, who sort of moved in, something he kept from his west coast husband.

The lawyer’s parents, a theater critic mother and a retired Harvard philosophy professor father, like their son’s husband very much, and his mother is intent on stopping the divorce.  The young professor’s sister, twice divorced herself, with two kids, is abrasive and “struggling”.  The dinner table conversation, carried on in the accompaniment of burnt lasagna (which along with dropped salad greens seems to represent the marriage), let’s you in on a number of other matters, heretofore kept secret – especially involving infidelities by,  and past divorce conversations between, the parents.

Some of the conversation between the gay couple seems quite realistic, some of the conversation between and regarding the parents and the sister are clever and sometimes very funny.  But you wouldn’t call the play a comedy, and there are no heroes to turn the play into a tragedy.  In fact, I think the play has a little trouble defining itself.

And then, after the guests leave, the couple is still intent on divorce, how do you end the play?  Urban tries, in effect by going fast forward and having the future of each of the characters foreshadowed in an unusual sort of epilogue.  This adds nothing to the story and – you heard it here first – I bet that the second time this play is produced, the ending will be different.

So, as I said, my reaction was mixed.  If you have tickets, don’t throw them away, but if you don’t, don’t think that you are missing an essential part of American theater.  By the way, the acting, the directing and the set all worked fine.  And the reviews have been good, and the show extended and selling out.