In the rehearsal room we've spent a lot of time lately watching Rosalind make a husband out of Orlando, the man she loves.The two great wooing/teaching scenes are the heart of the play. Meanwhile, on another stage, I can't help noticing another case of a woman teaching a man how to play a role. I am speaking, of course, of Maureen Dowd and Barack Obama. As in our play, the focus is on the guy, but it's the girl who is doing all the talking, and very well too. Maureen Dowd is famously sharp witted; as Rosalind says,"you shall never take her without her answer unless you take her without her tongue."
Like many of the rest of us fellow New York Times reading, wine drinking, European traveling, Shakespeare loving Americans, Maureen Dowd is in love with Barack Obama. She doesn't want him for her husband; Michelle's got that job and she's perfect for it. Ms. Dowd, again like many of us, is in love with Obama as a future president, as the man to lead our country. Obama is of course no Orlando. He's got the magic words whenever he wants them; he has thrilled us with them. He needs no speech class. But in the post-inspirational phase of this long campaign, out there in the woods of America, Obama still has a lot to learn, and Maureen Dowd wants to teach him, just as Rosalind wants to teach Orlando.
There she is flying with him on "O-force one," chatting with him on the plane, dogging his every step, and giving him notes as he goes. Good notes too--attentive, witty, consistent, possibly helpful. She brings a dramaturg's literary perspective to his character, comparing him to Jane's Austen's Mr.Darcy and to Homer's Odysseus. She's just so smart. And so much fun too. Her take on her man can now be distilled into one clear theme. Rosalind wants Orlando to get real. Maureen wants Obama to loosen up.
Here's what she says about her guy: He's "trying so hard to be perfect, it's stultifying." He and his campaign are "too tightly wrapped, overcalculated, and circumspect." He's a "hot house flower," "an orchid." He's too much like Mr. Darcy, who has not yet learned to "let down his guard, be more sportive, and laugh at himself." "Sometimes," she writes, "you just want to tell the guy to eat the doughnut."
In her most recent widely shared column, she writes that America is Elizabeth Bennet, who she hopes will teach her Mr. Darcy what he needs to learn.
But It's really Maureen Dowd who is Miss Bennet, deeply in love with this elegant, aristocratic, proud, cool, brilliant young man who might just become a great president. I have friends who think Miss Dowd is just a shallow, sharp, celebrity seeking gossip columnist. But I think not so. Like Rosalind, she understands that in politics all the world's a stage, and the men and women merely players. Like Rosalind, she has a director's gifts and instincts; she wants to shape and influence the performance of the man who commands her attention, while showing off her own wit at the same time. Why not? Some think she's just being mean, even abusive. Celia might accuse her of fouling her own nest. But I think Maureen Dowd's love for Obama "hath no bottom, like the Bay of Portgual." Celia would say, "or rather, bottomonless, that as fast as you pour affection in, it runs out." Not so. As Rosalind admits, "I cannot be out of the sight of Orlando." No more can Maureen be out of the sight of Obama. They are both girls in love.
And if by remote chance Maureen and Barack happen to be out of work next summer, looking for new roles, I have a Shakespeare play they could co-star in together. It would be sensational.