Change takes one step at a time, one person at a time: “The Walk Across America for Mother Earth”

Photo credit: Julie Fox

Presented by Circuit Theatre Co
Written by Taylor Mac
Directed by Christopher Annas-Lee
Music by Ellen Maddow

July 9-July 27
Club Oberon
2 Arrow St
Cambridge, MA
Circuit Theatre on Facebook

Review by Noe Kamelamela

(Cambridge) If you’ve never been part of a political action, this show will be eye-opening and uncomfortable. Its both of those things in many other ways, and I recommend leaving the little ones at home due to violence, sexuality, sexual violence and nudity. Taylor Mac’s ode to the political march and the people who do them gets a spirited revival at Club Oberon.

In The Walk Across America for Mother Earth, a rag-tag crew march from New York to the Nevada Test Site in 1992 to protest, well, anything that they decide to protest along the way, culminating with a political action that is sure to land each person in jail or worse. Friends Kelly and Angie, fresh-faced children of the revolution, join up to finally prove that, like, they are totally adults who care about the world. The seemingly consensus based walking community they’ve joined has more than a few flaws, one of the biggest being that their group turns more and more tribal and petty as they get further west. Each member’s imperfections become glaringly obvious over time almost in spite of the beauty of their spoken ideals.

The trappings and speech of the revolution highlight the uniqueness of each character. Each individual activist could stand as a representative for an entire bloc of stock characters that run the gamut from anarchists, militant lesbians, earth hippies, and Radical Faeries, to name a few stereotypes. The jokes are fast and furious, certainly coming at a quicker clip than if one was walking across several states. Toilet humor, social justice in-jokes, sight gags, slapstick, and the occasional song and dance contribute to a hyper-reality that seems more cheery than foot-weary.

Actors portrayed cars, road signs, fences and more. The excellent ensemble took running gags and ran with them to darker conclusions, in particular, their portrayal of community rituals and community decision making began light-hearted and ended up a screaming mess by the end of the show. There was one large set piece that worked as a reminder of the geographical setting of the show, and the lights were instrumental for the occasional tone shifts required for repeated elements. Amplified sound did fail at certain points, but human generated noise fared very well in the tiny space.

The seemingly random scenes have a method to their madness, asking deep questions about how people exist in community and why anyone would want to dedicate themselves to social justice especially when it involves other people. What’s wonderful about the show itself is the dramatization of the already dramatic: underneath the laughs and zany antics lie the gloriously good, the hideously bad and everything in between. While keeping a steady pace, Circuit’s production lets each audience member look at one facet of humanity at a time.

Tens of thousands of people have marched, held signs, wore costumes and been arrested at the Nevada Test Site, now the Nevada National Security Site. As of 1992, nuclear weapons are no longer explosively tested at the site and over a billion dollars have been paid to the many people who have suffered as a result of fallout from the explosive tests done over 60 years ago. Although its arguable whether this was a direct result of marches and speeches, it’s true that this issue was one that has been slow to change and people, the whacky and the not so whacky, made a difference.

Welcome to Arroyo’s is also running in repertory. Circuit Theatre Company’s last show of their fifth season is The Annotated History of the Muskrat by John Kuntz, and will run from August 8-16 at the Calderwood Pavilion.

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