David Byrne’s American Utopia

A friend of mine saw Utopia on Broadway right before everything shut down and loved it, declaring it a “must-see.” Others follow with more accolades and praise that I keep stumbling on. I thought of David Byrnes as sort of an eccentric and recall those quirky Talking Heads videos from high school that are still burning in my brain. 

I’m on a long haul flight and have already made it through a repeat of the Sopranos pilot, a couple episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the Academy Award Nominated Promising Young Woman. I’m thinking I need something to maybe fall asleep to when I hover over the different shades of blue and grey and a barefoot David Byrne. This guy. I dig him.

Directed by Spike Lee, the show opens with David Byrne contemplating a brain in his hand, and sharing the power of connection. He’s positioned front and center, rooted and ready to open his arms to all that surround him. The performers step in (barefoot as well), and each player seems to pluck a member of the audience right onto the stage with the opening song.

It’s apparent in the brief introductions to songs that Byrne is reminding us about our connections. Even in the spotlight of our differences, there’s a current, a bridge. Embracing all that we are, all we can be, especially when we come together. The poetry of the lyrics continues on through the movements of the players. And they keep bringing us in! Because we all have a role to play. No, I’m not falling asleep at all.

Byrne makes a point of noting that everyone on stage is actually playing the instruments they are holding. And, they are untethered to equipment that could limit movements. The reminder is a statement in itself; each player comes through with a different background, a unique contribution, a free thinking, individual perspective. And each one matters.

I am remembering Dead Poet’s Society and “…the powerful play goes on and you must contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

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