Prague Fringe 2015
In the interest of full disclosure, I had never met or seen Mr. McSorley before seeing this show, but I learned that I have a lot of life experience in common with him including mixed ethnic parentage, Catholic school education in New York City and a teaching career, not to mention coming of age in the 1960’s and the attendant sorrow at the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK. I know I share a lot of life experience with Mr. McSorley because that is what his show is, the telling of his life experiences. It is sort of one man’s Forrest Gump, only Mr. McSorley is smarter.
The backdrop of his story is Richmond, Queens in New York City, where Mr. McSorley describes his education by the Catholic nuns, one who his father had as his teacher 20 years earlier. We hear of his days as an alter boy and how his Catholic school education was laced with lessons in morality. He is told by Father Anthony Muller, “If you commit a sin you know you will go to hell for eternity…” The Thou Shalt Not Kill commandment became a major guidepost in his life.
Mr. McSorley tells us of being a young adult while the Vietnam War was raging. He sees school chums returning in body bags and attends their funerals. The draft looms over him like a black cloud. He goes to college to dodge the draft but he is still eligible to be a soldier after he graduates. A devout conscientious objector, he refuses to fight and finds out that teachers are not being called for war duty. He takes a job in a school and his career as a teacher begins.
I wondered how many men and women were forced to work in professions they were not passionate about only to take jobs to dodge the draft to avoid coming home in a coffin. The decisions that are made in the boardrooms of the corporations and war rooms of the governments often affect the decisions of the path one individual will take in life.
Mr. McSorley does not inhabit or act out his characters. He just describes them in his strong New York accent with no set or noticeable lighting and he wears plain black clothes. He stands there and talks with occasional hand gestures. As a storyteller, his tales of his own personal history have a certain charm. I feel that his down home, low-key style of presentation would make anyone of any age comfortable. He tells it like it was and it made me want to hear what happened to him next.