October 24, 2020

1999-04-25 – Chicago Tribune

1999 04 25 Chicago_Tribune_Sun__Apr_25__1999_

lust asking

The late 19608 is among the most fertile
periods of rock history, producing many
albums that have reached “classic” status.
But few have remained in the public’s
consciousness like The Who’s rock opera
“Tommy, ” the story
of a boy who loses
his ability to see,
speak and hear
afler witnessing the
murder of his
father, then
eventually becom
a pinball champion
and cultural icon.
“Tommy, ” which
began as an album
written by Pete
Tommy Townshend in 1969,

has been interpreted

as a film. a ballet and, most recently, a
Tonywinning Broadway musical. With the
30th anniversary of the album
approaching next month, the musical hits
Chicago’s Auditorium Theater for a short
run Tuesday through May 2. In its honor,
Chicago child psychologist Rita Sussman
considered the plot’s plausibility.

Q—llow realistic would It be that after
udngtlnmurdorothlshthonboy
would be unable to see, hear and speak?

I —-It would be unusual to literally not
be able to see, hear or speak. If he’s sim-
ply not expressing to anyone that he’s
seeing, hearing or speaking, that’s more
likely. There have been documented cases
of “conversion reaction,” in which peo-
ple’s senses can become shut down after a
traumatic event. There seems to be no
physiological explanation, but it can ha»

11. At that point, psychological help is

ven to make the connection of what they
might have experienced that led to that.

. Q—Ilowabouttheoddsofsuchahoy
becomlng a world-olass plnball player?

A —It doesn’t make sense. You have a
child who would be unable to develop and
unable to make connections. To grow,
children need to develop and they need
experiences and relationships to do so.
One could imagine such a situation hap-
pening to an adult because the necessary
capacities have already been developed.

tkS—so the story ls relatively unrealis-

A —-I think we can suspend our disbe-
lief. If he suddenly started to fly, we’d say,
“Wait a minute.” One of the interesting
things to know is why [“Tommy”] has had
such staying power. It must be meaning-
ful somehow [to the general public],
maybe that sometimes events in life can

- overwhelming and there is a wish or

ope that we can rise above them and

make something meaningful and special
out of them.