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Exploring the Undergrowth in the Forest of Dubious Liberal Art

John on July 24, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Ever wonder what sort of pernicious nonsense counts as art these days, specifically theater? The American Spectator entered the fever swamps of leftist stage-posturing and found out. Why? So you don’t have to:

With over 120 plays and performances, D.C.’s 18-day Fringe Festival kicked off its celebration of “unjuried, risk-taking” theatre on July 10. The first Fringe Festival began in Edinburgh in 1947, and has since then spread to cities like New York, Asheville, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C., which is now in the midst of its third Fringe Festival. Fringe Festivals give reactionary, edgy, and alternative performers spaces for plays that would otherwise never be performed.

And there is typically a very good reason why these small, radical productions could not make it on their own. Here are just a few: poorly written scripts, poorly trained actors, poorly directed plays, or, the ignominious trifecta of all three. (In one, a pimp-son who has just beaten his wailing mother, straddles her on the floor and howls into her face, “Pay me, you slut.”)


EQUALLY DARK AND SCARY is Mike Daisey’s one-man-show, “If You See Something, Say Something.” The monologue weaved Daisey’s experience touring Los Alamos with his brief and sketchy history of the Department of Homeland Security.

Daisey, who has been called a “master storyteller” by the New York Times, has written and performed many monologues, including “The Ugly American,” and “I Miss the Cold War.” As is revealed in his monologues, he has had a childhood obsession with the Cold War and, specifically, with what went down at Los Alamos.

This came through in his performance, which premiered at the Woolly Mammoth theatre in downtown D.C. two weekends ago.

Daisey sat behind a wooden desk and held court for two hours. As he wiped the film of sweat from his round face, Daisey rattled on about the evils of government, the horrors of standing armies, the imbecility of army officers, and his vivid recollections, as a 30-some year old, of the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


IT IS FOR THESE little bits of comic genius that Howard Shalwitz, Woolly Mammoth’s artistic director, described Daisey as “provocative” and “a real intellect.” That, and no doubt the fact that in his monologue he had the “courage” and “intellect” to liken our Founding Fathers to the terrorist murderers who attacked our country on 9/11. Daisey, who overestimates his capacity for genius, insults his audience by explaining that both groups were enemy combatants, and both are terrorists doing what they have to do — what they must do.

D’oh! All that time wasted on Shakespeare and O’Neill. I should have been studying Daisey.

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