You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2010.
St. Nicolas is a play about power and parasitism. The narrator is a middle-aged, Dublin theater critic who hits rock bottom, and after a long decline, runs away to London to become the R. M. Renfield for a group of vampires. The set is a single chair, and the play an hour and thirty minute monologue. The nameless narrator tells us, the audience, a ghost story starring himself.
A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged
The official blurb runs something like this: A group of young, liberal graduate students in Iowa have a formal, sit down dinner once a week, to which they like to invite a stranger – to spice up conversation. Their ivory tower serenity is disturbed, however, when their latest guest, Zach (played in the 1995 movie by Bill Paxton!), turns out to be a redneck, pedophilic, murderous, Holocaust denier. Zach taunts the tolerant liberals, saying that they don’t have the balls to stand up for themselves, and pulls a knife on Marc, the resident Jewish artist. Zach is distracted for a moment while breaking the arm of Peter, another sissy liberal, and Marc seizes the opportunity to stab Zach in the back with his own knife. Existential angst ensues as the “liberals” try to justify their aggression. They rationalize it so well that they decide to recreate the scenario every week with a new flavor of conservative crazy. Their preferred method of execution? Poison in the chardonnay.
You may not guess it from the picture of the handsome man above, but Lefty is a leftist, a commie, a red — and not in the Texas “Red Meat” way. You might think of this guy as a Lefty for The Great Recession — cool, hip, possibly living in a palatial squat in Buffalo, refusing to use currency or pay for food.
And yet, it was not always thus.
The enduring strength of Clifford Odets’s play Waiting for Lefty is its focus on character rather than identity. That may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one that traces the success and failure of the labor movement in the USA from Odets’s time to ours. Odets’s characters are honest, working people who strive for a measure of human dignity and are systematically deprived of it by the Bosses, the Owners, and the unsympathetic, pampered, and callous Elites. Odets builds his characters through their struggles: they are dynamic, not static. But in the intervening three quarters of a century since this play was first produced “identity” as a pillar of capitalist ideology has dominated and marginalized character so thoroughly that the didactic purpose of this play, what Brecht would have called a lehrstück, is easy to miss. Waiting for Lefty is the greatest work of American agitprop theater because it attempts to dramatize how a person learns courage in an act of character building, rather than appealing to the audience’s fear and pity.
How many comedies about torture there are in the naked city! Maybe not all of them are comedies, but it seems like our Empire City response to 24 and the Bush years has been laughter – hysterical, terrified laughter, of the mad scientist variety.
Kyle Ancowitz’s production of Matthew Freeman’s play That Old Soft Shoe at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg is a hilariously irreverent, frenetic, and absurd send up of 24 and its genre of fear mongering drama that will keep you laughing all the way to a highly classified black site in Jordan – or more probably, Florida.