(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Elevator Repair Service, the innovative group that brought theatrical versions of The Great Gatsby (Gatz) and The Sun Also Rises (The Select) to the Public Theater, has headed off in a new direction with Arguendo. The underlying text this time is not a work of fiction, but the transcript of oral arguments from a 1991 Supreme Court case dealing with go-go dancers in Indiana. The issue under consideration is whether requiring them to wear pasties and G-strings violates their First Amendment rights. The talented cast of five (Maggie Hoffman, Mike Iveson, Vin Knight, Susie Sokol and Ben Williams) portray all nine justices, the opposing attorneys, a clerk, several reporters and an exotic dancer. The proceedings begin conventionally enough. Actors move their chairs and change their voices as they portray different justices. At a certain point they roll down ramps from their elevated platform and move around the stage to confront each attorney. The backdrop is an animated projection of legal texts that behave as it they have a life of their own, at times wildly spinning at dizzying speeds. As the case progresses, the action grows ever more surrealistic, even as the actors stick to the transcript. There’s nudity, but I guarantee that you will not find it arousing. The activity becomes so frenetic that the decision itself almost gets lost in the shuffle. There is an odd final section with Justices Ginsburg and Rehnquist comparing notes on their sartorial choices. I compliment the group for the originality of their concept. It’s clever and sometimes amusing, but, to me at least, ultimately pointless. The audience greeted it with great enthusiasm. John Collins directed. Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission.