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Make your laugh contagious

I do not recall that my husband and I had a “watch list” before the pandemic. But after months of isolation and more television watching than I care to admit, we developed one.

For us, it became a list of promising-looking movies available on one of the two streaming channels we subscribe to. We longed for “a really good comedy” on Amazon Prime or Netflix. And they were hard to find. Still are.

So when I recently heard about something referred to as “unexpectedly funny,” informally labeled (are you ready for this?), “COVID: The Musical.” I was intrigued. It’s actually not a movie — it’s a 90-minute theatrical performance titled “Breathe.” One of the playwrights is Jodi Picoult, a favored author of mine.

Ms. Picoult is quoted as saying, “You laugh more than you expect to.” The play “speaks to all of us who have been crowded and alone, enraged and bereft at various points in the past year.” It purports to leave you “smiling with full body chills.” There is “a sense of magic.”

According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Breathe” contains “scenes named after the various symptoms many of us experienced firsthand.” Those would be “Fever, Aches, Swelling and Irritation, Fatigue and Shortness of Breath.” I am most curious about the “Swelling and Irritation” scene. Based on what I read, it may embrace the impact of street protests and Black Lives Matter eruptions that were a part of the pandemic year.

This is clearly not the comedy we were looking for in our household, and I think it is only available by traveling to New York or subscribing to a streaming service called Overture+. Alas.

That said, reading the back story in the development of “Breathe,” and juxtaposing that against the fact that it’s a musical (of all things!) was a reminder to me to pay attention to what happened over the past 14 months from a different angle — look for a new perspective.

That brings me to the question of the day — What happened for you over the past year? What has changed for you since March of 2020?

I feel fairly certain you are sobered by circumstance. Have you unmasked your feelings about loss in open discussions with loved ones? Have you made plans to visit friends and family who are vaccinated, sharing a glass of wine and a cheese plate while you let some of your sad out? Have you done your part in influencing friends and family who are not vaccinated? That last question is really important because if each of us influenced someone dis-inclined to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the difficulties of the past year would disappear more quickly, and those wine and cheese social events could become more frequent.

Final question. Have you laughed enough lately? Have you let yourself slide into a moment that that makes you smile — loudly? Consider this. Whatever the impetus, aim for the kind of a deep, happy, breathless laugh that becomes totally contagious if done in a group setting. Totally contagious.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University professor emeritus. Reach her at shrjohn99@gmail.com.