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Arts & Culture

Comedic communists comment on commodity

Arts & Culture Staff Writer
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Correction appended.

Karl Marx once said, “A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing.”

“Commodity Fetishism: A Communist Comedy,” a new play currently running at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, proves to be anything but obvious or trivial — and is indeed a very strange thing.

Written by Nathaniel Shapiro ’12, the production shapes a surreal vision of a communist American future in 2026. The story follows Reuben Pinson (Zach Bleckner ’12) as he struggles to find fulfillment in a society burdened by bureaucracy and bound by dental dogma.

The latter speaks to the show’s comedic thrust. The American Oral Party, “the first party recommended by 87 percent of dentists,” discovered the mind control potential of fluoride in 1944. This breakthrough was the first domino to topple in a line that led to a worldwide socialist state — in post-revolution, where we lay our scene.

Clad in uniformly blue jumpsuits, the cast delivers a capable performance. Each scene unravels sharply droll dialogue pointed at politics, and the segments are seasoned with excerpts from Leon Trotsky’s “Literature and Revolution.” Made structurally sound by the strength of Shapiro’s writing, the play is kept afloat in a sea of socially charged rhetoric by its amusing absurdity. The cast’s punchy performances communicate the show’s cynical message.

“This play does not try to glorify or damn capitalism or communism. Concepts can be perfect but people certainly aren’t,” Sharpiro said.

Shapiro has been a playwright for five years, and this is his third production at Brown. He dedicated the play to his great-grandfather — a communist blacklisted in the 1950s.

“I think the message is that society is flawed no matter where or how you live,” said Bleckner, the show’s star. “You have to find a way to be happy within yourself.”

“Commodity Fetishism” will continue at Granoff Studio One through Saturday.

The show’s well-executed humor, like a spoonful of sugar, helps the medicine go down. Five stars.

An article in Friday’s Herald (“Comedic communists comment on commodity,” Oct. 21) incorrectly stated that Nathaniel Shapiro ’12 dedicated “Commodity Fetishism: A Communist Commodity” to his grandfather, a communist blacklisted in the 1940s. In fact, Shapiro dedicated the play to his great-grandfather who was blacklisted in the 1950s. The Herald regrets the error.

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