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Theater Review

Communism Alive and, Well, Pithy With 'Marx'

May 31, 2001|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | Special to the Times

Aging lefties of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your complacency.

Howard Zinn's "Marx in Soho," a touring one-man show starring Brian Jones now playing at the Complex, mounts a clarion defense of the principles of Marxism while taking a timely jab at a consumerist culture run amok.

Author of "A People's History of the United States," Zinn is a renowned radical historian who uses the character of Karl Marx to restate the case for Communism, the death of which, in Zinn's view, has been greatly exaggerated.

Outraged over the misinterpretation of his social theory, Marx (Jones) is granted a respite from the afterlife to return to Earth and restate his philosophical case. Only, instead of ending up in London's Soho, where he spent a large part of his adult life, Marx ends up in New York's Soho.

What that cosmic misdirection really has to do with Zinn's story is never made clear, but the unpromising premise yields a surprisingly pithy recapitulation of Marx's life and the discarded socialist principles that fell along with the Berlin Wall. As Marx himself makes clear, his vision of a world order had little to do with the institutionalized brutality of the former Soviet Union, and everything to do with advancing the cause of humanity against the rapacious corporate interests that would devour it.

A witty and spontaneous mouthpiece, Jones invests his character with a surprising degree of urbanity and savoir-faire. But this is by no means Marx Lite. Zinn's indignation oozes through the levity, and Marx's own words remind us that capitalism without conscience is a recipe for revolution.

*

* "Marx in Soho," Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends June 9. $18. (877) 238-5596. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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