Saturday, April 01, 2006

Chris Wells: Liberty!

Liberty! (1999); Written and Performed by: Chris Wells; Presented in Minneapolis by Eye of the Storm Theater; Directed by Bridget Carpenter; 85 Minutes, no intermission

"Where am I in America?"

Finally, a dramatic entity that presents individualism and libertarian thought first, and then makes the equal rights for gays a subset of that.

Chris Wells delivers most of the play as a monologue, somewhat in the spirit of Gertrude Stein. But there are plenty of entertaining diversions. For example, there's a slightly out-of-tune piano accompaniment, somewhat in the style of Alban Berg and the opera Wozzeck. There is a Howdy Doody style puppet show, and, most audacious of all, Chris Wells actually serves food to the audience (vanilla cake and white sugar frosting, not good for those on diets). There is also mandatory audience participation, such as the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the round Frere Jacques (Mahler's First Symphony, anyone?)

The script, however, shows the difficulty of conveying a epic concept in a low-budget entertainment venue. The "plot device" is that of a liberated man waltzing around the country as the Statue of Liberty. It tends to be choppy, laden with lots of forced jokes. However, the ambition must be appreciated. It (like my Do Ask, Do Tell) tries to convey the sweep of how far American individualism has come, especially for but not limited to gays and lesbians. At one point, he tries to do this from prison (apparently for consensual sodomy), as he rejoices in prison perks like 3 squares a day, a weight room, library, college education.

But at least other media efforts are getting "the point."

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