Prologue: Into the Woods
Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Into the Woods attempts to be about a lot of things. Love – between mothers and daughters, princes and maidens, men and themselves. Loss – trying to rationalize the end of human life. Abandonment – a father who left his family as a young man confronts his son about to do the same, in a lovely piece of writing called No More.
But like most of Sondheim’s post-Hal Prince career, there is a general messiness to the piece. (Prince, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerry Robbins are perhaps the only geniuses of American musical theatre structure.) Into the Woods is seemingly about everything and nothing at the same time. And just like their other major collaboration, Sunday in the Park With George – the show’s two acts fail to meld, so much so that when Woods is performed by amateur groups the second act is often excluded altogether.
But whilst Woods is an often sloppy re-telling of classic fairy tales, Sondheim and Lapine create enduring characters by adhering to a basic tenet of Dramatic Writing 101: the folks on stage make big life choices at big life moments. The lyrical refrain of “into the woods” reflects their acceptance of the challenges before them and the risks they’re willing to take. Their “moments in the woods” are life-defining decisions to be embraced, not avoided.
Into the Woods, at its core, is about what we do when “the moment” presents itself and these characters are defined by what they do, in their moments, in the woods.
Sunday at Soldier Field is a moment for this Chicago Bears organization.
Bill Belichick, the greatest head coach in NFL history and the Big Bad Wolf for our purposes, is coming to town. Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history and our Prince Charming, is with him. They are the NFL’s gold standard; a tribute to consistency and greatness in a league constructed and governed to deter both. And they are a villain to be identified and subsequently vanquished.
They are a moment.