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A CurtainUp Review
Now That Communism is Dead, My Life Feels Empty
by Les Gutman
Several years ago, there was a popular book making the rounds entitled All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. One of its lessons is called "sharing". It's not one we learn especially well, yet coming face to face with adult greed can be a jolting experience for a child.
Communism, Richard Foreman would suggest, has followed a similar track."In the realm of pure ideas," he observes, "its promise of egalitarian paradise on earth spoke to the suppressed yearning of millions of people". Now That Communism Is Dead considers what happens to Fred (Jay Smith) and Freddie (Tony Torn), two washed-up ideological purists, when they find their Shangri-la in a shambles.
Although it possesses many of the familiar emblems we've come to think of as Foremanesque -- the frantic set design, clear plastic fourth wall and strings, the bells and pulsating under-rhythm, the agile if bizarre crew prone to break into dance (synchronized or not) -- Communism has a smaller cast, and a more focused story, than anything of recent Foreman vintage. It is a meditation, grim and a bit melancholy even though quite funny, on the state in which humanity now finds itself. Foreman draws us through an expansive assessment of post-modern ideology and its servant, avarice, all pitched through his phantasmagoric lens.
Framed in terms of things like dogs in wooden boxes and a prized pair of expensive -- private -- shoes, we are left to ponder how the sunsetting of the red scare has spawned new fears -- alterations in basic equations. Dogs can bite, of course, but post-commie man has pretty sharp teeth too. As if the specter of Bad Boy Nietzsche were still hovering in the Ontological environs, a faceless voice intones: "God is dead, my friend, bite hard -- bite really hard." I can think of a thousand stultifying ways of bringing this message home; I can't think of a single more painless or more effective one.
Smith and Torn, two faithful servants of Foreman, have never been better. Any attempt to describe the full nature of the characters they develop onstage is as pointless as trying to describe the nature of Foreman's play itself. Suffice it to say that Fred and Freddie will linger long in the memory, in counterpoint to the perplexing questions with which Foreman, as is typical, teases our minds.
CurtainUp's review of Bad Boy Nietzsche