Democracy in America
Annie Dorsen's series of glib, amusing vignettes never delves too deeply into the subject at hand.
The result is like a tray of spicy hors d'oeuvres passed around as appetizers at a party where dinner is never served. While it's almost consistently amusing, especially as played with puckish fun and unflagging energy by Anthony Torn, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Philippa Kaye, this hodgepodge never delves very deeply in its way into the subject at hand as Tocqueville did. That might have lent it some lasting meaning.
In the course of the fast journey, a number of usually very brief scenes unfold that don't necessarily relate one to the next or the next or the next after that. There's the opening sally when before a projection announcing a first word, the hubby Torn bobs to the middle of the stage and says, "Contrary." He's followed by Kaye, who twirls before another projection announcing a twirl. Both quick occurrences get laughs.
Then, while an upstage light strip streams various somewhat distracting saucy remarks, more skits follow on each other's nimble footsteps. They include a cell phone sequence with audience members asked to aim their own mobiles at the state, a hand-puppet singalong to Cosi Fan Tutte's "in uomini, in soldati," a few references to Bollywood, a couple of Jules Feiffer-influenced dances, a Barbara Kruger-like quote about taking out a checkbook whenever the word "homeland" is mentioned, a failed double-dutch jump-rope attempt, Kaye and Okpokwasili singing The Shirelles' 1962 "Soldier Boy," a travesty of "Que Sera Sera" as "O, Suri Suri" to spoof the commercialization of the much-photographed Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes offspring, and a game of roulette played with an inch-long pistol.
Perhaps the most troubling of the sequences is a video in which a cute little girl (Amanda Torn) is prompted to repeat remarks that slowly become sexually provocative. Though it's clear she doesn't understand much of what she's repeating and though what's she's saying is somewhat obscured by another of the supple Kaye's dances -- this one complete with fans -- the implication that the child is being subtly brainwashed is unmissable.
And while, yes, these segments are meant to poke fun at and deride what democracy has become in this country -- never mind what democracies imposed on other unprepared countries has led to -- there's no getting away from the likelihood that any number of alternative random items would have the same effect. Or lack of effect.