West Side Story is playing again in my town. It’s a great musical with brilliant music, astonishing dancing, and a tragedy as old as Shakespeare.
The theme of ethnic conflict in the big city is just a relevant today as when the show was first staged in 1957.
The fight back then was partly about race and I suppose partly about religion, but at its core was the struggle for living space between recent immigrant arrivals and more established residents.
Behind the gang “rumble” – a fight over turf – was pressure on housing and jobs and community acceptance. So not much has changed.
A knife fight under the highway might seem smalltime compared to today’s marketplace bombings and mosque massacres.
The old Upper West Side tenements of New York have gone too, replaced by the Lincoln Center and other artifacts of gentrification.
But on a world scale, the conflicts haven’t disappeared, and in fact have been magnified. The musical might aptly be reworked as Terror in the West or Meet You at the Mosque.
It’s a heartbreak that never seems to end.