P: Passion (A Stephen Sondheim Musical)
Tonight I watched the Broadway play (on video) Passion by Stephen Sondheim. In it, Giorgio is a military captain who is deeply in love with a married woman named Clara, with whom he has been having a passionate affair. He receives orders and is stationed away from Clara in the home of a Colonel Ricci whose ill cousin, Fosca, also lives there. Giorgio and Fosca meet, and he is disgusted at the way she seems to submit to her illness and languish joylessly through life. He encourages her to look to the good things life has to offer. She asks how. He says, “Well…by helping others.”
“Helping others?” She replies. “I have worked in poor houses, Captain. Pity is nothing but passive love – dead love.” (I thought that was a great line.)
He fails to draw her out of her self-pity, but she falls in love with him because he tries. She becomes obsessed, though he is honest with her from the beginning that he does not return her affections. She pretends to be ill unto death because of Giorgio’s rejection, so her doctor asks Giorgio to visit her to encourage her out of her ill state. He asks the reluctant Giorgio, “What is the cost of a few words when a life hangs in the balance?”
(Another awesome line.)
A couple more of the best lines in the play are these (in my opinion):
“Beauty is power, longing a disease.” – Fosca
“Love’s not a constant demand; it is a gift you bestow.” – Giorgio
Somewhere along the line, Giorgio’s conception of love changes. He realizes the love he shares with Clara is selfish; she will never leave her husband to be with Giorgio – theirs is a relationship purely based on physical passion. He also realizes the love Fosca has for him is irrational; he has not earned it, and neither has his rejection caused it to cease. He comes to understand love is not in fact about outward beauty at all (Fosca's lack of outward beauty is a major point in the play). Fosca’s understanding of love undergoes a transformation, too.
Here is the scene where Giorgio admits to Fosca that he has fallen in love with her, too:
This is not how the story ends. To discover that and how all the above plays out, you will have to watch the play for yourself. But let’s discuss a little, shall we?
I was struck by Fosca’s assertion that “longing [is] a disease.” Her own longing caused her physical ailments. It is a biblical principle that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12, NIV). I think sometimes people are at a loss as to how to obtain the fulfillment of their longing, be it for love or something else.
Do you believe in true love? Do you think love has to do with outward beauty? Do you think sometimes people fall in love with someone with no reason for it whatsoever…a seeming obsession that is actually selfless (as ends up being the case with Fosca)? Is there anything else about this play...or love...that makes you think?