Are There No Prisons, Is There No Barstow?

Last night, the boyfriend and I went to see A Mulholland Christmas Carol at Sacred Fools Theater, not far from our new home in SiFi. I was already really excited about it, because I love LA history, and I’ve been fascinated by Mullholland’s dual nature since reading William Mullholland and the Rise of Los Angeles last year (by his granddaughter, Catherine Mullholland). But after reading LAist Zach’s review, in which he compares the play’s author’s knowledge to that of the LA City Nerd that I knew I HAD to go.

I’m not sure what I expected going in, but the musical was far beyond anything I could have envisioned. The performers were immensely talented, as comic actors, and as singers. There was a live four-piece band, and an all-original score. The script was extremely witty, with chunks taken straight out of the classic Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” – but just enough to make it funny. The score was lively and catchy, and I’ve had it stuck in my head for a day now. And the history lesson was awesome, with lesser-known characters listing their place in history and their resumes as part of the dialogue.

I’ll try not to ruin it for everyone, but let me just say that one of the best moments was when the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Mulholland the skeletal boy and girl, and tells him, “the girl is urban decay. The boy is sprawl. Beware the boy. But the girl, she’s really bad too.” The moral of the story: Los Angeles wouldn’t be the size it is without Mulholland’s water, and maybe that would have been all right. The rape of the Owens Valley is one more karmic debt that I feel like the city pays for (Owens Valley, Bunker Hill, old Chinatown, Chavez Ravine…there’s a long, LONG list)

Markland asked last week if Mulholland was a hero or public enemy, and I still can’t decide. Mulholland seemed to make history without realizing it, to bring water to Los Angeles without seeing the consequences, to create a sprawling city in an era where no-one knew what worse consequences that would bring. Freeways, traffic, smog, white flight, all those things were decades in the future when Mulholland reigned. Yet none of them would have happened if Los Angeles hadn’t had the water flow to support millions of people. And I wonder if Mulholland knew the full devastation that the water diversion would have on the Owens Valley, the complete ruin it would bring to the farmers. We’re still living that history and owning up to that mistake today.

Anyways. “A Mulholland Christmas Carol” runs until the 23rd. I highly recommend going to see it. Immediately. Run, do not walk. This may be the last year it runs – and trust me, it’s the best history lesson you will ever get (if one of the hardest to accept.)