Urinetown Flushes Out Issues with Capitalism
Juanita Graham | April 15, 2016, 2:42 p.m.
Wildly clever and entertaining, Pomona College’s latest musical production, Urinetown, captivated its audience with the story of a futuristic dystopia where a long drought has led to government-controlled urination. The state has established public bathrooms called "amenities," all of which require a fee for entrance, and these amenities are under the authority and enforcement of the Urine Good Company. As a result, peeing in public is strictly forbidden and strictly punished. If you’re caught with your fly down, you’re shipped off to the secretive and sinister Urinetown. However, the price of pee forces one impoverished man to the edge. His capture and subsequent shipment to Urinetown sparks a revolutionary movement that threatens the established system.
Throughout the show, the cast proves its exuberance as well as its talent. Characters include an unapologetically corrupt businessman, a likeable and love-struck rebel, a witty but poverty-stricken girl, and a ruthless cop. The actors help saturate the plot with satire as each character makes its way down a mysterious, darkly funny path. They frequently toy with the audience by breaking the fourth wall or by acknowledging the fact that they are performing a musical. This makes the show both engaging and multidimensional.
Charlotte Hyde PO ’19, a student interested in the performing arts, said, “I think it was interesting that the director included lots of hidden gems in the musical. For example, in the song 'Don’t Be the Bunny,' Evan Fenner PO '18 [who played Urine Good Company owner, Mr. Caldwell B. Cladwell] did a magic trick with a coin. It added to the symbolism of the number, a pro-capitalist rally cry about the benefits of being the exploiter and the danger of being the exploited—the bunny. Evan also does magic in real life. The director, Giovanni Ortega, used the skills of the actors to enhance the power of the show and create these little moments that made the play personal for 5C students.”
Indeed, all aspects of the musical were carefully crafted and planned. Said Hyde, “Everything was deliberate, even the costume choices. For example, the people of Urinetown wore scorched earth tones, whereas the people of Urine Good Company were dressed in vibrant colors. That difference distanced the elites of Urine Good Company from the poverty of those living in Urinetown, and it exaggerated the hierarchical structure of this dystopian society.”
Ultimately, the musical functions as a critique of capitalism and the criminal justice system, blending comedy with irony and drama with sarcasm. The result is an entirely enjoyable and thought-provoking experience for the viewer. Pomona College’s website lauds the show, “As a brilliant satire Urinetown is a wickedly funny, fast-paced, and surprisingly intelligent comedic romp that empowers the working class.”
Hyde observed, “The director casted a lot of people of color. The scene 'snuff that girl' served as a commentary on police brutality targeting people of color, and they were able to insert relevant political commentary while maintaining the integrity of the scene. During the song actors called out, 'Bang! Bang! Boom!' as if they were shooting a gun, but they actually lunged backward as if they had been shot.”
Urinetown is much more than a comedy, or even a dramedy. It’s an exciting, amusing, and analytical work that resonates with its audience long after the curtains close.