"The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky"
"The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky (A Performance)"
Runs to Feb. 28, 2004
at TIXE, one of the chashama arts spaces
113 West 42nd Street
Reservation: 212 592 4644
Sometimes preaching to the choir is the best way to prove one is on the right side of issues. It's certainly the best way to get attention from like minded fellow travelers in these days of political polarity. So it was fairly easy to guess who would be sitting in the audience for performances of "The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky (A Performance)."
The three actors, Judson Kniffen and Alanna Medlock, two nicely dressed white people representing the mainstream media and its varied commentators and pundits, and an Asian Woman who portraying a left leaning academic humorless Jewish intellectual gave us an evening that began with some wit and ended with a deadly didactic diatribe of the innumerable sins for which Americans should suffer a plethora of shame.
Starting with the slaughter of innocent aboriginal New World Indians on both continents and ending with the current annihilation of Middle Eastern and Central Asian innocents by American weapons, involvement, allies, and intent to do harm to and almost always kill, and I stress this-- Innocents. Innocent men, women and children, innocents who never did a thing to incur the wrath of Big Brother America or any other murderous enemy, except unfortunately living in the wrong place at the wrong time, in their own homes, in their own countries, trying to make a living and be relatively happy within the confines of their belief structures. How can this happen again and again in a sane world with so many decent, loving, god fearing people everywhere one looks?
Here comes the simplistic answer--America--the godless, separator of religion and state, tyrant who thinks it's the sole savior in some kind of perversion of divine law, and betrayer of human rights. America can do no right if it interferes in world affairs or protects its own interests, read that as corporate interests.
The world was innocent before the discovery of America, and it has been death and destruction ever since, according to Chomsky's gospel. I agree, he's not far from wrong, if we completely foget world history and religious and tribal intolerance.
So much for the essential reason for this performance. But was it merely a performance? Is there a subtext, a closer reading? Was this a class study in social activism using political theater, that reinforced the credentials of the nine theater artists who are the Butane Group/WestWell productions?
I ask because it seems likely that Choosing Chomsky is a pointed way of showing that they are educated and politicized theateristas, not some group of stage crazed kids from the Midwest seeking attention from the Big Guys, unless Tim Robbins is in the audience, to advance their careers. Yes this group has a political purpose, even if it doesn't have a theatrical style to carry it to a higher level than an academic lecture.
It's that 20 minute lecture by the Asian Woman who represents a Jewish Intellectual I object to most. Bore me and I doze, lecture me then I rebel, anger me with an interminable anti-American laundry list of military actions and I wonder if you're giving me credit for being alive in the 21st century. No wonder Chomsky is lonely, he doesn't give anyone a chance to defend themselves from his righteous sermon. I couldn't stay for the after performance audience dialogue. Maybe it offered a bit of diversity of opinion and justification for the harangue. You can never tell who's signed up for the class, I mean in the audience.
I admire anyone, in this case Noel Salzman the director and Tamara Scmidt the dramaturg, who is willing to take sides in political controversies and willing to take risks to portray their opinions. All too often, ever more so these days, American life is whitewashed by corporate public relations and government oversight with threats of costly penalties. All I ask of theater is that professionals find a way to express their opinions that entertains and does justice, in this case to this difficult man and his teachings. I left the performance space not liking him at all, even though I've respected his opinions for many years, in fact since my Vietnam protester days.
Experimental theater won't create converts to political enlightenment if the audience is fidgeting and dozing as this one was when I looked around me. It just creates more apathy and frequently alienation from political theater itself. I started out with you all the way. I am the choir, not a tabula rosa student. Try to keep me interested and engaged. I don't mind being offended. I do mind condescension.[Litt]
If you have any comments or want to notify me about performances or shows, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2004 Larry Litt
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