Conundrum

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As my avid blog followers know, I write From the Ledge from an audience’s point of view.  And I don’t think there is a bigger audience conundrum right now in Chicago then when one is sitting through the Whoopi Goldberg-produced, supposedly-Broadway bound White Noise, also subtitled A Cautionary Musical.  As an audience member, I’m bombarded with a myriad of complicated, unsettling emotions – I am dazzled and awe-struck by the exceptional work of a group of actors with impeccable Broadway credentials, yet I’m flabbergasted that they’re singing and dancing to songs that start choruses with “’the N word’ is going to shoot white boys” or contain lyrics about sending Jews to concentration camps or shooting illegal Mexican immigrants by the Arizona border.  I’m astounded by the bravery and the no-holds-barred-nature of the material about the pop music rise of a Neo-Nazi sister act yet at the same time disappointed by the lack of character development, nuance, and multi-dimensionality.  I’m riveted, repulsed, exhilarated, let down.  Despite all of this, though, I would say White Noise, with all it’s imperfections, unrealized potential, easy targets, and cringe-worthy lyrics and dialogue, is the must-see show of the season:  it is theater that brazenly addresses a problem that some of us think will go away if we just ignore it – the disturbing onslaught of extremism in mass media and pop culture; and how telegenic right-wing fundamentalism seems to have become tolerable (from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck’s unabated soapbox shilling to pop culture staple Donald Trump’s insane hunt for the President’s birth certificate).  And as a liberal, gay, minority, immigrant audience member, the type of person who is the usual target of these right-wingers’ vitriol, I applaud theater that takes, well, a take-no-prisoners stance against them. 

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