Book of Mormon: hell of a play in a hell of a town

When you get sidetracked from journal keeping (or blogging, if you prefer) for more than a few days, I’ve found it gets really easy to lose track of what you were going to write next. If you’re anything like me, however, while your fingers are idle from the keyboard, your mind is still going 90 mph. When there’s not enough time sometimes to sit down and write, I have 3 or 4 ideas for new postings all at once. Where to start?! So today I’ll finish up “our week of living in New York as though we really lived there.” The highlight of the trip turned out to be not only having real face-time with our Pittsburgh friend who took the Amtrak to join us a few days, but going to our first play on Broadway. And what a play it was!

Being from Utah where about 60% of the current population are members of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon), of course we were curious about all the hoopla surrounding Book Of Mormon. broadway book of mormonFrom the reaction of the people in the audience near me, there’s no wonder why they sell out so often–even after running more than two years. Book of Mormon is all the things you’ve no doubt heard already:  subversive, offensive, and, well–okay–at times inappropriate. Yes, it’s all those things, but much much more. I can sum it up in one word: Hilarious! I was laughing so hard throughout the whole two hours and 30 minutes that the rest of the world and its problems fell away. That said, the coarser aspects–the jokes about female circumcision, and sex with babies as “nature’s remedy for healing HIV,” gave me pause, and make Ugandans look pretty stupid, and I wonder how an African visitor to this country might react. In spite of my own rather bawdy sense of humor, several times my better nature stood aside to ask my baser self, “Why are you laughing?!” I’m happy to say that by the end of the play, I felt the Ugandans came out okay after all. By then they had vindicated themselves by revealing their intelligence in the  staging of a musical production for the benefit of visiting Church Elders. Not only did they understand the metaphoric content they took from Missionary Cunningham’s version (he was cornered into making up stories his own since he’d never actually read the Book of Mormon himself) but that they were perfectly able to take the best from those, and other influences from the west seeking to influence them, and improve themselves. The message I took from that–indeed there’s a line in the play that says it–it doesn’t matter where the stories came from. What does matter is the good that can come from that message. Lastly, I confess to something many of you who know me well may already have guessed, and I do this at the risk of giving some of the plot away. I love it when one of the insecure, overweight (read unacceptable as one of the “cool” people), nerds of the world turn out to be the real heroes. I confess that I (almost) fell in love with Arnold.

Other highlights, as briefly as I can make them, but you know me and my wordiness!  Eating ethnic: Indian food for dinner in Jackson Heights at the Jackson Cafe. Delicious pakoras, tandoor chicken served with rice and curried bindi (okra). Sorry, no picture. We had an Ethiopian lunch one day, which we’ve sorely missed since leaving Las Vegas. Wasn’t sure about going to Hells Kitchen in Midtown Manhattan as I remembered it from the 1970s as a not-so-great part of town. Today the area is, according to Wikipedia “gentrifying.” That seems like an apt description to me. The streets were clean, people were busy with few or no loiterers about. I didn’t feel nervous at all as I might have forty years ago. I noticed this Citi Bike system outside the restaurant (Meskerem’s), and couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. Seemed like a great idea to us. And regardless of what that lady said on the news, it didn’t make the neighborhood look disgusting at all to me.


Lunch was a shared summer salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers with a light vinaigrette dressing on a serving of injera, which is a flatbread made with teff flour (which is gluten-free) mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, then baked into crepe-like bread on a flat clay grill. The fermenting gives it its spongy texture and slightly sour taste. We ordered the vegetarian assortment  shown here, also shared, making it a very inexpensive and tasty meals for New York City (less than $20 for the two of us). It’s eaten with the hand, so we felt right at home, since we eat like that when we go to India. I sent my compliments to the chef as I’ve never tasted a better injera in any city I’ve ever eaten it.

ethiopean lunch

Finally, besides the upscale (window) shopping at Bergdorf-Goodman‘s (we were looking for Barney’s) and Tiffany, our museumless, more or less seat-o-the-pants city tour with our friend, we also ogled the store artwork in the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center. If you have even one creative bone in your body, you’ll not wonder that Legos have been around such a long time–since the l940’s–I believe. I’m not sure whether this is a snake or a dragon, but whatever it is, it’s a marvel in design. It winds itself in and out of the whole store ceiling. I can’t imagine how many hours it took to make, or how many people it took to do it.

lego snake

The Book of Mormon off Broadway will no doubt make it to a theater near you. I hope you’ll be able to see it some day, and if you’re close enough to travel on Amtrak in hours, as our friend was, I’d say it’s worth a weekend excursion. Once you see it, and you decide you either like it or hate it, I hope you won’t hold my unorthodox sense of humor against me. Really, I wouldn’t hurt a fly!  And while I might enjoy poking fun at some the weirder aspects of religious practice, I’d never ridicule the religion itself.  🙂

23 thoughts on “Book of Mormon: hell of a play in a hell of a town

  1. Thanks, Alice. Haven’t decided whether to try to see it in NYC or wait until I go to Chicago in September. I probably have the same sense of humor you have, so I’m looking forward.Also, I’ll try to get to the Ethiopian restaurant. Sounds great. Hell’s Kitchen is sort of on the way to the High Line and B & H Camera. So I get there often. No problems. Actually, seems like no problems anywhere in Manhattan.

    • I understand that after it leaves Chicago, in October I believe, it’ll begin a tour of the rest of the country. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy going to plays. We even participated in little theatre a long time ago, and went wherever we’ve lived but after the children were born we got out of the practice. Plus it got expensive. Ruth, I should apologize for the errors in this post. I was in such a hurry I didn’t edit very well I’m afraid so I’m going back in to do that now. I know you’ll enjoy the play though, wherever you see it.

      On Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 3:45 PM, My Wintersong

  2. I think I’d like Book of Mormon — given my tendency toward irreverence. Sounds like you had a great time!!!!

    • I highly recommend a weekend in New York whether you spend time in the museums or just bumming about town making small talk with strangers as we mostly did this time.

      • I would love that!!!!! My daughter (who was my shy one) used to say I was the only person she ever knew who had a new best friend by the time her groceries were bagged. :LOL: I’d like to think that’s legacy of being born in a small town in Ohio.
        I hope that I’m heading up that way sometime in the next couple weeks. Here’s a song that I remember from family sing-a-longs:

  3. I highly recommend a weekend in New York whether you spend time in the museums or just bumming about town making small talk with strangers as we mostly did this time.

    • Yup! Came through just fine. It’s not such an impossibility from where you are Helena. Something to look forward to after you get back from that “boring adventure in Africa” you’re about to embark on!

  4. Alice, I don’t know if I am your only Mormon follower, but I want you to know I enjoyed your post. I think it’s always a good thing to be able to laugh at yourself – or your own culture, in this case. And it is the Mormon culture, not the “gospel”, that is being satirized in this Broadway hit. I can’t wait to have a minute to read all you NYC posts, as it seems you are enjoying another great adventure!!!

  5. Thanks Renae! And no, you aren’t the only Mormon reader I’ve had, and I think it’s so important for all religious people to hold on a healthy sense of humor, as it sure helps to get through the day. As I pointed out in a prior comment, it’s not about making fun of the message or the religion itself, but the resulting (sometimes) extreme notions coming from it. Quite a few images spring to mind from Christianity across the board, as well as the Muslim faith, but not everyone is as tolerant as you. Hope your summer’s restful and peaceful.

    • I absolutely agree with the sad observation that religious extremism brings out the worst in humankind. Often the central theme is love, charity, and acceptance versus hateful judgment, but that is overlooked. Quite a quandary, don’t you think? Well, keep on keeping on, my friend.

  6. hey Alice, sounds like a great trip!!!! I thought I’d better ask when I am taking care of Anna…. I think its coming up soon;

    • Yes it was a good trip; it’s always good to have a change of scenery for a few days. Thanks to you for watching out for Anna, Oregon looks very promising, too, especially during this heat!

  7. I;m settled down again myself, and so glad to find you are bwriting again. Hurrah! Lovely new layout. Great pictures. Yes will see that asap or can. My sil tells me that it”s down to 50% now.

      • I think it’s I who NEED MOTIVATION! Learned new stuff in Oregon and just returned from there. Gotta go get infused at the hospital today, then maybe that big M will return. If there’s extra, I’ll nudge it along to you! How’s that? 😛

    • I’ve been away for awhile, but will soon settle down and get busy. Hope you’re soon kicking your heels (literally). Surgery’s no fun! 😦

  8. Love your blog. Keep entertaining us. I used to be a Mormon. I think it is great that “the culture” is hilarious when viewed through the eyes of the performing arts. I think that helps members of the Mormon church relax a bit. My only sojourn into New York was to see the Hill Cumorah Pagaent decades ago when I was Mormon. Loved that part of the country.

    • Nice of you to stop by again. I’m woefully lazy these days, but I expect I’ll not only be inspired but motivated to write something sometime again. Miraculously, this blog keeps pegging along. Just got back from Oregon, and I’m sure there’s a muse or two there somewhere! 😀

    • Alive and well, thanks for asking. I’m just being lazy about electronic gadgets EXCEPT Hubby just bought me one of the new iPod5’s. I’ll learn it for the convenience but I have noticed I sleep much better these days by limiting my online time. Hope all is well out your way! 🙂

      On Sat, Oct 5, 2013 at 2:14 PM, My Wintersong

  9. Well, you have stopped again. Darn. I would wish you lovely wonderful holidays, but two have passed already. Hope you are worn and happy. Hugs from here..

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