It’s hard not to see Rent, a reworking of La Boheme, as politics. What a sad picture of modern life it presents as La vie Boheme. In a century we are generally rid of tuberculosis, but now we have aids and drugs to replace it. Several of the characters are on AZT, and one, a drag queen named Angel, dies of aids. Mimi dances in a club and earns extra money with prostitution. She mainlines.
But when she says, “I’m called Mimi,” you have to respond, “I knew that,” or perhaps, "but my real name is Lucia." She blows out her own candle so they can search for matches.
To be our Boheme they must include lesbians and gays, obsess over commitment, and live in a loft in New York City. This is 1990, the end of the millennium, before 9/11, and the world trade center still stands.
What is the same as that other La Boheme? Friendship, youth, joy, love, most of all love. They haven’t paid the rent, so there is no heat. They worry over selling out for money.
I’m going to be 65 in a couple of days and can’t remember ever being this young. I love Angel and the mixed race dyke that is Musetta’s lover. Forgive me if I call them their other names. And there is tango, which I adore. People dance on table tops and shout out their love of La vie Boheme. There is no yesterday; there is no tomorrow. There is only this moment.
Someone named Jonathan Larson made this. It’s us, our young ones, loving and dying and being young. The music is us, too. I dreamt about it.