Mindy Kaling Pays Tribute to Michael R. Jackson and His ‘Breakthrough Masterpiece’ Broadway Musical ‘A Strange Loop’

Michael R. Jackson is, in a word, dazzling. His Broadway musical, “A Strange Loop,” is a breakthrough masterpiece whose plot I won’t describe here because it’s so inventive that my summary wouldn’t do it justice. But what I can say is that it’s a musical about a writer … well, trying to write. The star of “A Strange Loop” is Usher, a “young overweight-to-obese homosexual and/ or gay and/or queer, cisgender male writer,” as he says in his opening song, working to find his way in the world, deciphering the many destructive (and often extremely funny) voices in his head.

Watching Michael’s Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning musical, I felt like someone had shone a light on the creative process of writing in a way it had never been examined before. For years, many neurotic writers have been able to see themselves in the protagonists of Woody Allen movies or Charlie Kaufman’s “Adaptation” or, hell, even “The Shining.” I never completely got it. But I actually identify with Usher, a funny, tortured, pop-culture-fluent brown man trying to impress his parents, discover his voice, vanquish his shame and have sex occasionally. Michael managed to capture all the moments of artistic self-doubt and relentless self-examination and somehow make it joyful, funny and relatable.

Michael reminds me that genius comes from unlikely places. His love of Tori Amos and Liz Phair was as strong an influence on him as his training in playwriting at Tisch. You can see the disparate elements of his childhood and adulthood, which combine to create something hilarious, unsettling and profoundly moving. It’s a show that stays with you and leaves you Googling “Michael R. Jackson next project.”

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