Friday, August 04, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Being American (The SOB Review) - Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis, MN

The Unbearable Lightness of Being American (The SOB Review) - Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis, MN

*** (out of ****)

Last night, as the annual Minnesota Fringe Festival officially kicked-off, one of the first promising productions out of the starting gate was the often incendiary Ministry of Cultural Warfare's The Unbearable Lightness of Being American. With varied vignettes encapsulating several shades of American life, this production may appear at first blush to be literally all over the map (as in these United States).

But MOCW's play, punctuated by a variety of often clever sketches by Matthew Foster, provide a thought-provoking send-up of the disparate crazy quilt our nation really is, including the politically correct school girl (Leigha Horton) reading her contest essay to the gay diva worshipper (Nathan Surprenant) to the Christian right businessman who proselytizes his clients to the disillusioned liberal who makes an impassioned case for Americans to come together. Horton is excellent in each of many characters she inhabits; Surprenant is quite amusing as well.

The one-hour production begins with a fascinating -- and alternatively funny and chilling -- video of "A Brief History of America" that neatly and succinctly relates the American experience through a series of images, each described in just a few words. Sometimes the self-examination of what it means to be American is just plain hilarious, while at other times, it is unafraid to speak in political terms -- in fact, after the disillusioned liberal makes her case while singing the "forgotten" second stanzas of the patriotic songs with which we all grew up, the show ends with a partisan plea to vote for Minnesota's venerable DFL (Democrat-Farm-Labor) Party on November 7.

While some of the sketches work better than others, and some may easily be turned off by the overt political content, The Unbearable Lightness of Being American should be required viewing for anyone taking in this year's Fringe Festival. The production will be presented again on Sunday, August 6 at 1 pm, Tuesday, August 8 at 8:30 pm, Thursday, August 10 at 7 pm and Saturday, August 12 at 8:30 pm.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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