AISLE SAY Twin Cities


By Arthur Miller
Directed by David Esbjornson
Starring John Bedford Lloyd, Jeff Weiss,
Lalia Robins and Wendy Vanden Heuvel
Guthrie Theater
725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis (612) 377-2224

Reviewed by Ellen Dworsky and Roxanne Sadovsky

When I finally sat down to write the review of "Resurrection Blues", it occurred to me that I was procrastinating for a good reason this time. It had been four days since we attended "Blues'" world debut and I still had no clue as to what I was going to say. I knew Elle was trying to hide her impatience; each morning when we spoke, she would end the call with the usual orders du jour, tagged onto a gentle reminder that WHEN we write "Resurrection", we have to "make sure" to mention how much we loved Guthrie's PR gal. Melodie Bahan, who made us feel right at home in the Guthrie's grand foyer. Or that we didn't even mind being sandwiched between the well-dressed elder set, who shot us much deserved daggers for navigating (seconds before curtain) through their aisle of shawl in our smoky jeans. "Don't forget to summarize the plot, this time, either. Oh, and mention how neither one of us knew Arthur Miller was still alive; but do it in a way that makes it sound more like you're the one who didn't know." Fine.

After while, I was beginning to feel like Stephen King in that one book where he has writer's block so bad that even the typewriter loses patience and starts attacking him. Yet, somehow, I couldn't start. In fact, ever since the final curtain came down and I joined the other non-Minnesotans (who dare to publicly express joy) in explosively clapping myself into a standing ovation, I had been reluctant to embark upon the HUGE personal and journalistic obligation to writing the review. I struggled with how I was going to eloquently put into words a production that shot directly into the sublingual corridors of my being, whose feelings and thoughts could only translate into "Ooooooooooooooh. Oh, God," and "Aaaaah. Aaaaah, yeah." How was I going to rival the other presses who would employ large adjectives and official dramaturges? What could I possibly say that would do justice to Miller's, once again amazing depiction of the apathetic future of mankind? What words could even begin to evaluate a story whose insight, wisdom, sense of humor, and cast talent is able to make my own life resemble an episode of Saved By the Bell? I can't touch this. Whenever I see something that is actually good, all I can do is say, 'yup' and start sulking. I'm threatened by the fact that I'm not the only one that laments the demise of human culture in its need to fill up on stuff instead of love. I'm threatened because with theatre like this, pretty soon those of us who have values are going to become mainstream. I don't want to blend in with the McValues. Then we'll be back at square one because at that point, it will be "cool" to really care about stuff. Kind of like how General Felix Barriaux (pronounced Barrio [John Bedford Lloyd]) says something to the effect that, "some of us have to be shallow so others can be deep."

Elle: Rox?
Rox: Yeah?
Elle: What are you doing?
Rox: What do you mean?
Elle: You're going to put us way over the word limit if you keep on like this. Take some out.
Rox: No.
Elle: Yes. You didn't even cover the plot. You didn't cover anything.
Rox: I did, too! Elle, aren't you the one who said it's the process and not the product that matters? Didn't you say something about the journey?
Elle: You're confusing two different conversations. One was about our road trips, the other was about theater review. Stay on track. Talk about the play.
Rox: Listen. Why don't you cover the plot part. Since you're here and all. You're really good at that.
Elle: Nice try, Rox. You can do it.
Rox: Well...It takes place in the future. In Chile.
Elle: Not Chile.
Rox: Where?
Elle: I don't know. No one knows. Somewhere in Latin America.

Rox: Anyway, the plot isn't important. What matters is the authenticity of the characters. How they completely epitomize the shallowness of society. Miller is trying to say that if we don't get our shit together and brush up on our limbic system, we are headed straight for Orwellsville.

Elle: You're falling back on this Orwell stuff again. I don't know that you've ever adequately explained what that means. Explain it to my satisfaction and I'll bail you out on the plot. You better explain this limbic stuff too.

Rox: How many times to I have to go over this, Elle? It all comes back to 1984. Unless we start relating to each other more as human beings instead of as products, we are going to lose the capacity to feel anything. That basically means that our newest brain, the neo-cortex, is literally able to talk us out of our feelings-which live in our limbic system.

Elle: Don't get snippy, Rox


Rox: Off the record, Elle-just fill in the plot. It'll take you two seconds. I am not good at one- line summaries.

Elle: Jesus, Rox. Okay, but you can't edit it. I don't want to see it back in my e-mail in-box. Of course that's assuming you have figured out the downloading process.

Rox: Thanks Elle. Okay, we're back on.

End Intermission

Elle: Here's the plot summary: In an unnamed Latin American country, revolutionaries are beginning to follow this Jesus figure, who, of course, doesn't even want a following. General Barriaux-the dictator- decides he has to put a stop to the insurrectionists by "crucifying" the town's newest deity. The funny part is that Barriaux's newfound psychoanalytical approach (fueled by his weekly visits to a psychotherapist in New York) to life becomes intertwined with his loyalty to the iron fist. The result is that we do not know how he "feels" about said Jesus figure-one day he believes the prisoner is the Son of God, (or at the very least has something other's haven't got-he can make his body light up and glow) while on other days he labels him a hippie scam job. Mostly, though, he is interested in two things: keeping his government in power and the alluring "hair cut" of Emily Shapiro (Lalia Robins)-who both introduces the love story and epitomizes the modern woman's struggle with her beloved career. Naturally, the Americans catch wind of the coming execution and send a letter to the General's cousin Henri Schultz (Jeff Weiss) offering to pay big money to televise the crucifixion. Henri, in the middle of his own spiritual and psychological crisis (he's spent years making money, then eschewing capitalist mentality, goes the academic route, all the while ignoring what matters most to him-his revolutionary daughter), tries to convince his cousin not to execute the glowing guy. Alas, Barriaux is more concerned about his impotence (or, what's the politically correct term these days? Erectile Dysfunction) than the societal, psychological, and spiritual ramifications of nailing a guy to the cross for millions world-wide to watch.

Rox: Thanks, Elle. I really was getting stuck.

Elle: You were not. You just didn't want to talk about what you perceive as the "boring" stuff. Remember those two conversations you were confusing? Well, one of them was how what we really want to do when we're doing theater or book reviewing is talk about ourselves and not the play or the book.

Rox: Seriously, I really want to do this thing justice. I want to make sure and tell them why it's so important-I'm serious about the Orwell thing. That has nothing to do with me for a change! It has to do with the slow death of the human instinct.

Elle: Where are you going with this, Rox? It's all perspective, where you're from, your life experiences, likes, dislikes. Or how a psych background causes you to boil everything down to "how does this relate to survival?" You're going to talk about feelings now, aren't you?

Rox: Yes, but part of our survival is the need to connect with others and to feel things. Take the father of the Joan of Arc(type) who realizes after years of pursuing his first his monetary, then his intellectual dreams, that the only thing he really wants in life is to really love and connect to his daughter, Jeanine (Wendy Vanden Heuvel And I want to make sure they understand the satire and the archetypes. That these people are here now, destroying the world as we speak. They are taking over the world with the promise that good hair will make us happy. They are exploiting our emptiness but they are the ones who created it in the first place by promising fulfillment so long as we tithe to the mall. Don't you see, Elle? This is important.

Elle: Important to who? And who is "they?" Didn't The General say there is no 'they' in his country?

Rox: Yeah, that guy was brilliant with the one-liners. This is "important" to the people like Stanley (Bruce Bohne-who played the stoner guy that you liked so much; the one who is constantly searching for meaning in his life.

Elle: I did love Stanley. You will tell me it's because he's that familiar archetype-the harmless, funny druggy- we all knew in our youths.

Rox: And it's important because all too soon the world will run out of those kind of "important" people and the definition will be filled in by someone or something less substantial-

Elle: Like Skip Cheeseboro, (David Chandler) the would-be Hollywood producer of the Jesus figure's execution? who was all about making the bucks, no matter what the cost to his soul? Though he doesn't even realize that there's a cost. Or the director, Emily Shapiro (Lalia Robins who knows the a televised execution is the beginning of the end but is struggling with the fact that she has to pay her bills, is pregnant, just bought a condo, and already walked off one set on moral grounds. Hey, did you know that a lot of the cast members have been guest stars on "Law and Order"?

Rox: Not you too, Elle. That's the point I'm trying to make-that what media says, goes, even if it means we all end up wearing those hideous glasses with the rhinestone hearts. Why are those back in? Would you wear those? I want to make sure they understand the satire. Like why native Minnesota director David Esbjornson decided to project all those images to the sound of gunfire and music-

Elle: What the hell are you talking about, Rox? It was just setting the scene. But speaking of media, have you looked at all of the actor's credits? Long list. They've been in tons of plays, movies, and hey, did you know that lots of them have been on Law and Order? I love that show.

Rox: I don't even own a TV. Now who's getting off track. Why did this premier in Minnesota rather than on Broadway?

Elle: Money. The root of all evil. Broadway is too expensive. It was a real coup for the Guthrie to get it. But it's about time the rest of the country recognizes how much excellent theater we have in the Twin Cites.

Rox: Well, that about does it for me. I think I made my point.

Elle: That's it?

Rox: What, Elle? The acting was superb! Ten thumbs up! The satire was cunning and poignant with a twist of the old time Miller we remember from the mob days of the malt shop. Hey, that was kind of poetic, Elle.) It's a must see! A perfect blend of multi-cultural dictatorship slapstick and the irony of today's psycho-centric me-babble. The one-liners will make you laugh so hard your cheeks will hurt....And don't get me started on the futuristic Latin-fashion.

Elle: Rox-

Rox: Why should I do an analysis of the acting when all I can think to say is how much this play made me want to was tell everyone to go see it so they can start believing in things that really matter. You take this one into the barn. I'm done in.

Elle: Since we're already a thousand words over our word limit, I guess I'll close the barn door by saying I think this is the first time I've ever seen modern social satire done so well. Go see it!

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