Not Recommended * I have participated in a number of marches on the left and one usually finds everything from Roman Catholic nuns and priests to Maoists, and I am sure, members of the LBGTQA community. Taylor Mac’s play “The Walk Across America for Mother Earth” decided to focus on the last feature of such coalitions in a march in 1922 to halt Nuclear testing on American Indian land in Nevada. Unfortunately, it does so in the most unflattering, and worse, non-affecting, way. The main character, Kelly (Alex Grelle), quickly becomes jaded by the motives and lack of any real connection between the protestors, fleeing from traditional American life at a time in which society even more vehemently refused to accept their identities, and the American Indians for whom they are ostensibly trying to advocate.
There are probably good reasons to question alliances between the left and different minorities who have so little in common other than histories of persecution. At times, it seems that pundits and activists are looking for their own identity in other disenfranchised groups, and perhaps Mac’s characters could have been made a little more credible by showing the alliances these disparate groups tend to form with each other at such events, and listening to what their conversations mind sound like as they may often have different values. Whatever the case, or intention, Mac’s representation of sexual minorities comes off as bigoted, and any pathos in Kelly’s character as Kelly becomes jaded is completely lost in Bonnie Metzger’s direction which makes in nearly impossible to tell what is happen to what is happening narratively, psychologically, or even to keep the character’s straight in one’s head. often have different values. Whatever the case, or intention, Mac’s representation of sexual minorities comes off as bigoted, and any pathos in Kelly’s character as Kelly becomes jaded is completely lost in Bonnie Metzger’s direction which makes in nearly impossible to tell what is happen to what is happening narratively, psychologically, or even to keep the character’s straight in one’s head.
Metzger was not unable to elicit a single convincing performance from any one of the actors, and there was no rhyme or reason to her blocking: it didn’t even look the like the actors had been told where to stand or move: they just went willy-nilly across the stage. Worst of all, Metzger seemed to be encouraging the actors to “act out’ rather than to act: it was so over-the-top that the interaction between the cast and audience (which could often be effective) made one take the whole thing even less seriously. Also, the costume and face-paint (Izumi A. Inaba) the characters were was so over the top and indulged in the worst stereotypes of sexual minorities that it not only threatened to destroy whatever sympathy we might have for these characters, in spite of Taylor’s script, but it took away from our ability to tell what was actually going on (the visuals were too overpowering) to the point that, the costumes, along with the Metzger’s blocking, the actor’s performances, and Mac’s dialogue meant that it took to me five minutes to realize that an actress was practically dancing bare-breasted on stage.
But perhaps the bad blocking, overstated performances, and overpowering costumes were for the best, because they distracted us from that fact nothing in Mac’s script was tastefully done by Metzger. Even worse, given what we were forced to see (much of which are just inherently distasteful): fellatio, diarrhea (yes, there was a prop), and rape, nothing was affecting. The rape could have been particularly unarmi0ng because it was against American Indian by a character referred to as King Arthur (Sadie Rogers): unfortunately, the only actress to give even a relatively charismatic performance due perhaps to the fact that she was wearing the most auspicious costume in a cast full of them. By the end, the whole thing looked a gruesome satire and unfair attack on the left’s motives for champion of the causes of American Indians which played on bigotry and stereotype instead of a balanced exploration of why persecuted minorities with such different values and cultures identify with each other and how they feel about it, a genuine exploration of the strange coalition of people who truly care about a social justice, or even a penetrating and insightful critique of such coalitions.
“The Walk Across America for Mother Earth” is being produced by Rep Tape Theatre at the Steppenwolf Garage Rep through April 25th. The theater located at 1650 W. Halsted.
Performances are Sunday March 29 at 8:00 pm, Wed April 1, 8 pm, Saturday April 4, at 8;00 pm, Sunday April 5 at 4:00 pm, Fri April 10 at 8:00 pm, and Sat April 11, at 4:00 pm, Thu April 16th at 8:00 pm, Sun April 19th, at 8:00 pm, and Saturday April 25th at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling 312-355-1650 or visiting www.steppenwolf.org
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