A Hunka Socialism in the NY Times Arts Section
NY Times theatre critic/playwright George Hunka's "A Sermon on Corporations, Neighborhoods and Loss" celebrates a left-wing performance artist for exposing the evils of large corporations. Hunka, of course, is writing this for the New York Times, part of a modest little enterprise known as the New York Times Co., which had revenues of a mere $3.4 billion in 2005.
"Reverend Billy -- the alter ego of the performance artist Bill Talen, bleach-blond pompadoured and an impressive presence at 6-foot-3 in his pale brown leisure suit -- struts, preaches and sings his way across the Spiegeltent stage at the South Street Seaport, bringing his anticorporatist, environmentalist message to the converted via a sermon and several songs, accompanied by the Church of Stop Shopping gospel choir and a seven-piece band."
The "Reverend" is going after the lingerie chain Victoria's Secret: "Right now, he is particularly incensed that Victoria's Secret has claimed countless trees (and accompanying fauna) in the production of its many catalogs."
Hunka is awed by this left-wing parodist/activist:
"But before Reverend Billy can be dismissed as yet another prankster-activist with a megaphone, one must note that there is something more here, far more. 'Reverend Billy’s Tent Revival,' a 90-minute show running occasional Sundays and on Sept. 11 at the Spiegeltent through Oct. 1, projects an additional note of tragedy and loss: it reminds its audience that when large corporations decide to leave their imprint on local areas, neighborhood identity and self-sovereignty are destroyed."
Speaking of destroying neighborhoods, one wonders what Hunka thinks of New York City condemning a block of stores at 41st Street and 8th Avenue to pave the way for the paper's new headquarters.
A touch of socialism:
"And while Victoria's Secret is only one of the chain stores at the seaport, making an example of it in the show is part of a larger point by Reverend Billy: the importance of conserving a noncorporate community spirit based on cooperation rather than consumerism.
"That Reverend Billy is accompanied by a stirring choir and fine live band is icing on the cake, of course, but that cake is what nourishes. His politically radical parody of a fundamentalist church service may indeed preach to the converted. But all Sunday services, at every church, do precisely the same thing, though usually without Mr. Talen’s sly, subversive humor.
"Reverend Billy may not convert you. But you will think twice about shopping, once the show is over."
Wonder what the Times advertising department thinks of that.
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