Last night my wife and I saw “Wicked.”
Fantastic! In addition to being highly entertaining, well acted, and well produced with tunes that get stuck in your head, there are some themes that run throughout that are worth noting. As many commentators have already suggested, this is yet another example of truth being staged through the medium of popular culture.
The first theme is IDENTITY. Elphaba is uncertain of her history and past. Galinda grows uncertain in her social standing. The wizard as power is merely ephemeral, and his journey of personal discovery is tainted with the mistakes of his past and the challenges of his future. Answering the question “Who Am I?” is not so easily tackled in this musical, just as it is in life.
The second issue is EPISTEMOLOGICAL RELATIVISM. One of the most pointed lines in the whole production is, “We believe things all the time that aren’t true. It’s called history. We are what we make it.” Even the audience’s reaction proved poignant. This truly postmodern position though subtle seemed to bleed through the whole in more ways than the obvious.
The third theme was the issue of GOOD AND EVIL. Even the title provokes the question of what kind of valuations we can make on people. The setting of the back story of the Wizard of Oz brings to light that there is quite a bit of context to be understood before we label people and sensibilities as either “good” or “bad.”
Lastly, and ultimately what comes to mind is an overarching metanarrative of MEANINGFUL AMBIGUITY. The twists, turns, and uncertainty leave the audience feeling unsettled in any conclusions one can make about any of the characters. While we are often quick to judge, this musical brings to light that prejudice, and challenges us all to be more reserved in certainty, more attentive to context, and more compassionate towards the journeys of those around us.