Marx in Soho , Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway, February 15, 2007
Who would brave Arctic weather to watch Karl Marx pontificate? Or, to be more specific, an actor portraying Marx in a one-man show penned by lefty historian Howard Zinn? They’d have to be . . . “crazy,” Zinn said before the curtain went up on his Marx in Soho last Thursday at Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway. Nevertheless, a capacity crowd of 200 turned up for an evening of entertainment, edification, and, yes, wit. As one middle-aged audience member, Ron Rechnitz, put it, “I have a passion for justice, creativity, and ingenuity, and a sensitivity to what’s best for the greatest number of people.”
On stage, Bob Weick played a middle-aged Marx who is granted an hour to return to Earth and discuss his time in the 19th century while observing ours in the 21st. Marx, who feels he’s been misrepresented by history, sees lots of similarities: poverty, war, and raging capitalism. And he thinks the original case he made for socialism is still valid.
Marx in Soho began with the cash-register sound effects from Pink Floyd’s “Money.” Weick took the stage and pondered the dialectic of how he could be dead and yet alive in a Somerville basement. (The original play was set in New York’s SoHo, an echo of London’s Soho, where Marx once lived.) A cell phone went off. Twice. And a woman in the audience exclaimed “Yes!” whenever Weick’s Marx hit upon a cosmic truth, which he did often. This was a multi-layered evening where socialist ideals were explained rationally and the Soviet Union’s co-optation of Marxism was roundly criticized.
“It was Howard Zinn talking through Karl Marx,” said host Jimmy Tingle before a Q&A session that followed the performance. When Zinn got a chance to speak, he admitted that Marx “was off by 200 years, but he was confident capitalism would reach the point where it would change.”
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