Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Vietnamization of New Jersey

Rag-tag, tasteless,, zany and poltically incorrect: that's Christopher Durang's somewhat surreal farce from 1977 that has been revived by the Alchemy Theatre Company. The place is one of those middle-class American households that playwrights used to love to throw darts at (this family lives, literally, in a suburban house made out of a giant cereal box) and the time is the late '60s (when the son's off fighting in Vietnam) to the mid-'70s (when he's back for the Ford-era recession). The play is about as high-minded as a Mad Magazine strip, and it's a product of its time, a socio-political lampoon that surely had topicality on its side when it was written. Still, that's part of what makes it a fun play to revisit: its free-wheeling farcical assault on the attitudes of its day makes it a rip-roarin' hoot in a time capsule, and as it refreshingly sends up left wing liberal guilt just as eagerly as it rails against right wing warmongering, it has the added bonus of being neither politically correct nor predictable. This production takes some time to get going - not everyone in the cast is able to nail this distinctive style of farce - but enough of it flies to put it over and I had a fun time. (Thanks, David!)

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