Gross Indecency

The Jungle heaves, Frank Theatre shudders, Outward Spiral recoils

 

Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day, now being produced by Outward Spiral, also takes place in Germany. This is the Fatherland we're all familiar with: Goose-stepping goons and speechifying dissidents are the order of the day. In a posh apartment raked at such a ridiculous angle that the inhabitants seem about to roll off into the laps of the audience, a group of artists has gathered to celebrate New Year's Eve, 1932. Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there.

The sofa revolutionaries whom Kushner parades across the stage include Agnes (Ellen Apel), a whiny refusenik; Paulinkal (Carolyn Pool), a prettier, whinier refusenik; Baz (Jeff Nelson), a gay refusenik; Gotchling (Laura Depta), a butch, communist refusenik; and Husz (Zach Curtis), a one-eyed, Hungarian refusenik. Thrown into the mix are Die Alte (Anita O'Sullivan), Lucifer (Mark Abel Garcia), and a frazzled modern woman named Zillah (Kate Eifrig), who bursts into the theater shouting "fire," then rants for a few minutes about the multifarious conspiracies of the moral majority.

A quiet farm crisis: Frank Theatre's Farmyard  brings out the beast in its miserable characters
A quiet farm crisis: Frank Theatre's Farmyard brings out the beast in its miserable characters

Although Kushner's epic Angels in America may well stand as one of the great dramatic works of the century, Bright Room, which the playwright wrote in 1985, would probably best be filed away where impressionable young theater companies can't get their hands on it. There is indeed so much wrong with the play that it hardly seems worth the effort of sorting it all out. Aside from interminable stretches where the entire cast stands like lifeless figurants while one character makes a long, unfocused speech, there is an irritating amount of pretentious bumper-sticker moralizing. Who but Tony Kushner would have the gall to compare the American realpolitik to the Third Reich? After an hour of storming around the stage, one of the characters stops for a moment and says wistfully, "Art is never enough." Yes, and neither is righteous indignation.

 

Tossin' Junk runs through June 20 at the Jungle Theater; (612) 822-7063.Farmyard runs through May 23 at the Theatre Garage; (612) 724-3760.A Bright Room Called Day runs through May 22 at the Hennepin Center for the Arts; (612) 504-2323.

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