Real Life Once Again Inappropriately Imitates The Simpsons

The play The Wife and I saw last night, along with our friends from the O.C., was an off-Broadway run of The Color Purple. When my friend said he had tickets to “a show” and this was what it was, I was expecting a dramatic performance, something unremittingly grim and terrible. I knew there had been a Spielberg movie in the mid-80’s with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover, and I vaguely remembered a lot of people upset because of the content of the movie.

I knew of the story started with the young teenage heroine getting raped by her father, and having the baby which resulted from the rape taken away from her. From there, the story takes on progressively darker and more unpleasant tones, touching on themes of spousal abuse, marital rape, infidelity, Jim Crow, and social disapproval of homosexuals. I remember the subject matter was controversial enough that a lot of people wanted the book and the movie banned, or at least not to allow teenagers to read it. (I never did.) So, I was expecting a pretty dark, depressing dramatic performance.

What we got was a musical.

A musical, no you did not misunderstand me and that was not a typo. With uplifting, happy songs borrowing heavily from African-American church choir music along with the traditional sorts of Broadway music you’d expect from something like Annie Get Your Gun or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The music was not particularly remarkable but really what it felt like was — this just isn’t appropriate!

Not wanting to be an ingrate — the seats were great and I know that our friends went to some expense and trouble to have the event to visit with us, for which I am genuinely grateful — we sat through the whole thing. I tried to take it seriously, and certainly the tribulations of the characters were not played up for laughs. But I had trouble keeping one thing out of my mind the entire time. This is what it was:

When The Simpsons parodied the eager naïveté of off-Broadway productions by having its characters do a community theater production of Oh, Streetcar! (the musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire) I thought that was over the top and quite funny. The Color Purple is, if anything, a darker, less uplifting, more depressing story than A Streetcar Named Desire. And this was real, it was happening right before my eyes and being performed by very earnest (and very talented) actors.

So what I kept on thinking was, oh, getting made fun of by The Simpsons wasn’t enough for you, was it, Broadway? So what’s next? Schindler’s List set to music?

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Schindler’s List: the Musical.Oh, the Nazi and the Hebrew should be friends,Oh, the Nazi and the Hebrew should be friends,One man likes to drop a bomb,The other bargains with aplomb,But that’s no reason why they can’t be friends.Sorry. And apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Comments are closed.