Bridges of Madison County. Should you wait for fate or make your fate?
Honestly, I was first interested in the musical Bridges of Madison County because my mother and aunt’s voices would quake when they mentioned the 1992 film starring Meryl Streep. I have vague memories of some romantic film that I’d run out the living room from, knowing it would induce major tear flow for my mother. With my maturity came a willingness to not shy away from movies with themes of sexuality, fate, and heartbreak. I can honestly say that I left BoMC a more open person, a person more drawn to expression. As I watched house-wife Francesca make sacrifices because of her duties as a mother, wife and a community member, I felt a heightened sense of my responsibility to myself and to others to say how I feel about where I am in life, to help experience life as a deeply as possible. For someone who often keeps her mouth closed when she feels distressed about life, this show was extremely validating.
My mother and I were running extremely late to the performance because of transportation delays, and I was honestly terrified. I knew how much she was looking forward to seeing this show and I was going to be so disappointed if she did not get to experience the performance. It was so wonderful to have my mom sitting next to me (she is my Broadway partner-in-crime), processing the show in a different manner as a fan of the movie. As a fan of Broadway, my mother was not looking to critique - but I worried about how the ways in which the musical had taken on new life as an independent piece. (BTW, my mom ended up LOVING the show and playing the four songs available on Soundcloud from the score on repeat at her job and throughout my house! Enjoy those songs here.)
I did not listen to the music prior to entering the theater, and I was surprised because the music is extremely varied. When it moved from the Italian Francesca singing an operatic opening song to a country jam session, I think I became a bit too analytical over the continuity of the music. Sometimes during the dialogue, I giggled and teared – BUT when Francesca and Robert performed their duets and solos... I felt like nothing was separating me from this life-force growing between the two of them. The music is rich with love - that is the only way to put it. The character Robert is a photographer who reveals that that he has always looked at life through a camera lens, with distance. Throughout his relationship with Francesca, he is able to put the camera down and actually experience life. Ironically, he is only then able to really see grandeur, to fully take in a world that is much larger than he. The songs performed singularly and shared by he and Francesca made me feel that sense of amazement.
After the show, I felt compelled to watch the movie with my mama. We cuddled up on our couch after I got home from school and watched our DVR’ed version of ‘The Bridges of Madison County.” One cool thing that was really left out of the movie and included in the play was the background of the character Robert. The way that he developed onstage, through the song, “Another Life,” sung by Robert’ ex-wife, will truly stick with me. I immediately liked that he didn’t come on out and start spilling about who he was because I saw him as a reclusive type of guy. I did wonder who in my life I would want to sing my story … whose perception of me could tell the most?
When I first experienced this song, I felt the catharsis right along with the ex-wife. Frustration, insecurity, and a shrug of my shoulders. But there was something so special to me about the way this actual part was staged. In “Another Life” - this hippie chick with fringe boots tells me about a man who wanted more out of life (Robert). On the other side of the stage, Robert and Francesca share their first dinner. My mom said she found this staging choice a bit distracting… but I saw and old world and a new world right next to one another; I saw the frames of a home that could, for even just a few days, withstand the collision of past and future.
This portrayal of the romance between Francesca and Robert made me think of this idea of "right place, right time". Should I accept the opportunities for love and life in this world that are convenient and readily accessible? Is fate just a simple as the way things "work out" today in this moment? Or am I to fight for my fate- for what I long for in the deepest parts of my being, even if that does not mean going along with what seems like the script for this life?