The first time we saw the play was in San Francisco at the Curran Theatre. It was fun telling people about our intentions: “We’re going to see Urinetown in the City.”
“You’re in town? That’s a funny name for a Play.”
“No,” we’d reply. “It’s URINEtown.”
“Ewwwww. That’s gross,” was the common rejoinder.
Some of our friends leaned into the conversation as if to say “tell me more.” Others almost seemed to flip an invisible listening switch to the off position.
If I were to categorize the common reactions we got to our announcement about Urinetown, I would say they were either curious or presumptious.
The curious wanted to know how the play got its title, what the story was about, and the age appropriateness of it – questions anyone would ask about a play or a movie or a book that was unfamiliar.
The presumptious never got any further than the title. Almost as if I had spewed out a full paragraph of f-words. “Why would a pastor want to go to a play about bathroom functions?”
The reaction to Urinetown has become for me a metaphor about the state of one’s mind, and it acts like mental litmus paper. Are conclusions based on old tapes playing in one’s head or is the mind an ever-hungry and curious place where ideas are tried and weighed?
In point of fact, Urinetown is not disgusting past its title. But the “ewwwww” folks will never discover that. They will never be able to hear the “haves and have nots” story that is told. Nor enjoy its wonderful satire. To these folks it can only be a bad thing – based on their understanding of its title.
Then there are the rest. Those who are enlivened by an idea well-presented. Those who love the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Who are ever alert for truth in all its hiding places.
We’re going to Urinetown this weekend. Gross title but lovely music and interesting ideas. A gift to the hungry and curious.