Wise Guys: A Musical Play Based on the Book of Proverbs

Today (May 2011), the youth of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA gave the pastoral staff a break with a service-sermon-long (29 minutes) performance of the musical play Wise Guys: A Musical Play Based on the Book of Proverbs by Joe Cox and Jody Lindh.The church had last performed it about seven years ago. On the left stage, there is a fictitious breakfast setting, with Pop Tarts, which I guess is sugar-coated cereal. It's the worst possible stuff (rather like Aphabits in the 50s) to eat if you have to get up at 5:30 AM for an early school start and have a first period test (particularly a biology test). Sugar will give you hypoglycemia, maybe pre-Type-2 diabetes, and not make you wise.

There is some expression of family values and fatherly role modeling, and a number of references to some current indie films (the kind that get on the list for AMC Independent). In particular, 'The Tree of Life' (which this little musical anticipates – a biggie film coming from Brad Pitt and Sean Penn), which tests the loss of innocence of teens or young adults. Then there is Tom Shadyac’s 'I Am', when the musical refers to the idea of eating and consuming only what you need  (taking more than you need amounts to “cancer”). Or maybe even 'There Be Dragons' – partly because kids learn about the subjunctive mood in foreign language courses (any language), but mainly because Wisdom teaches us that saints have a past and sinners have a future. The story presents a character 'Wisdom' who tries to keep Bobby distracted by what he 'wants', which is potentially risque. The younger kids are presented as worker ants – which is a rather bizarre analogy (social insects sacrifice their workers for the good of the hive; it’s a trick of civilization to get beyond having to do that, for people). National Geographic once wrote that humans sacrifice their young men in war (and, in the past, the draft); but ants sacrifice their elderly ladies.

The Prayer on Confession defined Wisdom this way, by negation: 'We delight in the idea of mutual caring and celebrating life together, but we get bogged down in our own concerns. We are too busy to seek community and too preoccupied to ponder your will for us. We go our own way, cutting ourselves off from you and one another.' That reminds me of Philip Longman’s claim that people are getting too self-absorbed to be able to have and raise children (in any family unit).

You might want to read about 'The Book of Wisdom' in the Catholic Old Testament in Wikipedia, especially the 'Messianic' interpretations. I believe Leonard Bernstein addressed this topic in some of his more 'modern' choral works, will look into it.>Also, yesterday, I attended a little concert with the angklung at the Embassy of Indonesia Saturday; writeup Saturday 14 in my International Issues blog.

This is also the name of a card game about the underworld.