In an evening of four new shorts by women (Emma Goidel, Martyna Majok, Caridad Svich, and Julia Cho) at Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 35th Marathon of One-act Plays, Series B, only Svich’s, retrogressively voiced The Hour of All Things, rises above being politically correct. Her monologue, on the impact of global capitalism, sounds as if it were written by the last '80s feminist left on earth. How sensitive, perceptive, and singular she is, as if Camille Paglia had never critiqued the faux innocence of Feminism or Rush Limbaugh hadn’t identified the feminazi. Even if the emotions sound like psychological boilerplate, though, Switch is pinpointing a problem with no name. American society has become more rigid. Not only do feminists seem to be sounding “my way or the highway” more but so does the rest of the culture. Svitch literarily describes a peaceful protest, which is unnecessarily dispersed with tear gas—the punishment is so outlandishly out of synch with its provocation. The story may even remind of the Kalief Browder case, where a teen was beaten and thrown in and out of solitary confinement, spending three years without trial; ultimately, he committed suicide. His crime—stealing a backpack. Svich also descends into immobility and despair—“we’re all ghosts now,” her female character, Nic, tells us. We live in fear. She’s right—but she’s also so passive: we aren’t living in The Handmaid’s Tale yet. What she is highlighting needs to be fought about, even by artists, who feel more human than the rest of us. People have been quantified, according to their purse; Americans have had legislation sneaked behind their backs–and had their privacy rights impeded. Think of the ways we are currently controlled, from legal or arbitrary self-appointed authorities. Svitch tells us everything in the world is in ruins—but isn’t drama a way of making us all stronger? When her piece ends it has become less taut; apparently, the work has, too much, allowed itself the expression of futility. We must find ways to fight back.
With the superb Miriam Silverman as Nic. Directed by William Carden. Recommended to be read, seen, and debated.
The EST Marathon continues until 6/27.
Press: Bruce Cohen.
Visit EST: http://www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org/
© 2015 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.