Today, my husband David and I went to see a play called The Power of Duff by Stephen Belber, a thought-provoking exploration of the impact a sincere and generous gesture can have on the lives of others, and on the person making the gesture. Charlie Duff, an anchorman in a local news station impulsively decides to offer a prayer to his recently deceased father at the end of a news broadcast, a move that surprises his colleagues and upsets his boss, who believes there is no room for religion in news reporting. Nonetheless, Duff continues to offer prayers at the end of broadcasts, including one for the return of a kidnapped young girl which is successful, leading many viewers to believe he has spiritual power and causing the show’s ratings to soar. All the while, Duff is for the first time – undoubtedly prompted by the death of his father – examining his own life and character and the mistakes he has made with his ex-wife and teenage son, from whom he has become estranged because of his selfish and hurtful past behavior.
We went to see the play because a friend Josh, a fellow parent at our son Theo’s school, was playing the lead role. We haven’t known Josh for long – just a couple of years. I first met him when he stopped by our rental house with our mutual friend Eric and their daughters one day, and we have chatted on several occasions at the school and coffee shop since. (We also had the recent misfortune of accidentally scraping his wife Myndy’s car, and my last conversation with Myndy – about the car damage – ended in a horrible cough/apnea episode that took me to the ER a few weeks back!) Josh struck me right away as warm, caring and very thoughtful, and when he said he was really proud of this play, I wanted to make sure to see it, and we did on the last day. I enjoyed the play immensely for the main idea of trying to affect the world through positive, caring action. I also enjoyed watching Josh, who was on the stage throughout, beautifully portraying a self-centered man reaching a critical point in his life and attempting, stumblingly, to become something better.
Last year I watched another play about intelligent, decent people who have become disconnected from the other people in their lives. The play, Animals Out of Paper by Rajiv Joseph, was one that I had heard about because of my interest in origami. It is their shared interest in this mathematical art form that ultimately helps them to overcome their inability to relate to others and helps them become fully human. I had a spare copy of the play so I dropped it in Josh and Myndy’s mailbox. Josh doesn’t know about my Giveaway (or “Power of Stuff”?) project. But I know he will immediately get what I’m trying to do with it.