Elevator Repair Service returns to the Public (where it triumphed with the great Gatz) to examine a 1991 Supreme Court case in which pasty-faced justices debated the constitutional implications of nude dancing. Postshow discussions with legal experts follow many performances.
Arguendo: theater review by Adam Feldman
Elevator Repair Service’s cerebral spectacle Arguendo studiously riffs on notions of show and trial. The bulk of the piece consists of verbatim transcripts of oral arguments from the 1991 Supreme Court case Barnes v. Glen Theatre, which examined whether states could prohibit nude dancing. Various justices, lawyers and reporters are played by four protean actors: Mike Iveson, Ben Williams, Vin Knight and the droll Susie Sokol, who sometimes suggests a more astringent Julia Louis-Dreyfus. (Maggie Hoffman plays a big-haired exotic dancer at a press conference.) What begins as a sobersided reproduction of a hearing—with microfiche-style projections of text in the background—gets stranger and dancier as it wends on.
Directed by John Collins, Arguendo brings the audience right to the brink of boredom, then builds to a wild crescendo that includes, natch, nude dancing; a smart flash-forward coda follows, judiciously reframing what we have seen. There is an amusing contrast between the staid legalese of the process and the raciness of the subject under discussion, and the piece touches suggestively on themes of costume, performance and artistic expression. This makes for an enjoyable 80 minutes—even if Arguendo feels, perhaps by design, less like an argument than an extended footnote.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
THE BOTTOM LINE E.R.S. piques your brain with an offbeat look at the tried and the true.
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam
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