“Don’t you wonder: why is it necessary to declare me dead again and again?”
This is the question posed by Karl Marx in Howard Zinn’s witty and insightful “play on history”. The premise of this one-man performance is that history’s most famous, and oft-misrepresented, radical is resurrected after agitating with the authorities of the afterlife to clear his name. Through a bureaucratic error, however, Marx lands in modern-day Soho, New York, rather than his old stomping grounds in London, to make his case.
©1999 Howard Zinn (P)2010 Haymarket Books
“[Zinn] mounts a clarion defense of the principles of Marxism while taking a timely jab at a consumerist culture run amok.… A witty and spontaneous mouthpiece, Jones invests his character with a surprising degree of urbanity and savoir-faire.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Brian Jones deserves the highest ‘marx.’ Find out how Karl Marx lived, what he thought, and what he might think today. Hilarious and informative. A superb performance.” (Amy Goodman)
"Smart. Funny. Perfect for the times in which we live." (Michael Moore)
I saw this play in Dublin with my girlfriend, and she was really moved by the humanity of the character. She was touched by how the character was always referring to the women that surrounded him - his wife, daughter. I am delighted to find this recording here at audible, so I can remember once more the emotion to feel Karl Marx in front of me, sitting there, talking about the contemporary world. Of course, as an audio, we are missing the facial and body expression of this actor, and we know how this is important to keep a monologue interesting. My girlfriend, different to me, never read any of Marx's books, and after the play started to read not only Marx, but communist literature, like Howard Zinn, Saramago, and others. This play is fantastic, because I could witness Marx alive.
Marx in Soho is a one-man show framed as an apologist talk by Karl Marx, who could not possibly have been so vain, tedious, selfish, loutish, and oblivious as this script makes him. If he were, then one can only say pity poor Mrs. Marx! Given communism’s astonishing evolution since Marx’s death, the idea of the play is a promising one, but in execution it is a theatrical dud--about as dramatic as reading a term paper. There is no action, no character transformation, no wit, and, most disappointing, no organized attempt to defend Marxist theory. If a play’s whole point is to show that Marxism’s failure in Russia was due solely to its being hijacked by a mad thug (Stalin), then the drama is to prove that case. Here, the play fails. In fact, it never even tries. Cuba and China are not mentioned, either to support or rebut the claim. None of the other Soviet leaders are discussed nor are any other Marxist figures or systems of the 20th Century. All the play does is decry capitalism and give examples of the plight of the poor—not exactly demonstrating Marx’s acknowledged powers of reasoning! Lacking conflict, confrontation, or change, the play is dull, dull, dull. Even the live audience musters only the slightest reaction, although I’m sure they were trying to be supportive. Using historical figures to argue a political/social issue can be a brilliant theatrical technique, if done skillfully (see Inherit the Wind or, more recently, Frost/Nixon). But when plays in this vein are done clumsily, they can be very bad indeed. Marx in Soho is such a pretentious clunker. Consider yourself warned.
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