MacRune's Guevara

By John Spurling. Dir. Anthony Nelson. With ensemble cast. Theatre at St. Clement's (see Off Broadway).

POLITICAL POSER Schulman, right, is etched by Smith.

POLITICAL POSER Schulman, right, is etched by Smith.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

Twelve characters are in search of the “real” Che Guevara in the sprawling, metatheatrical MacRune’s Guevara, which seems determined to encompass all possible perspectives on the legendary revolutionary. John Spurling’s 1969 play is introduced and given a connective web of patter by Edward Hotel (Rob O’Hare), the prim art critic and playwright-within-the-play, who depicts the life of Che Guevara (Max Shulman) as interpreted through the wall scrawlings of a Scottish painter of dubious sanity (MacAdam Smith). Trouble is, Hotel’s cast, his subjects and even the cantankerous ghost of the artist all disagree with his portrayal, and the show is often interrupted by angry argument in the wings, thespian insurrection, and debates on the nature of art and revolution.

The work, which has been rewritten since its premiere 36 years ago, remains surprisingly fresh in its fascination with the South American rebel and its concerns with violence and responsibility. Some of Hotel’s (i.e., Spurling’s) forays into different genres—the campy Man of La Mancha musical rendition of Guevara’s bio; the comic-book story of a tragic, nubile philosopher-revolutionary (Joanna Simmons); even the parody of social realism in the tale of rich boy Raimundo (Joseph Varca)—though long-winded, are goofily entertaining, thanks in large part to the talented cast. But the pontificating Hotel’s brand of intellectualism feels as tiresomely 20th century as his bricoleur aspirations, and the play’s Tristram Shandy--esque trajectory wears the audience out well before its intriguing finale.—Jessica Branch