Sign of the Times
Lucky Lucky Abdullah Ben Bella (Charles Guerrero) is such a lucky Arabic Algerian that he randomly finds a pair of shoes on the ground that are exactly his size. He is also so lucky that the French imperialist soldiers do not bother trying to kill him--they know he's too lucky to be killed.
So begins Elijah Aron's allegorical creation, Fete Amusant Pour Monsieur DeGaulle, playing at the Loeb Ex this weekend.
Fete Amusant Pour Monsieur DeGaulle
Written and Directed by Elijah Aron
The Loeb Experimental Theater
Through February 15
The production epitomizes student experimental theater. Aron's script displays glimmers of sheer brilliance, humor and penetrating insight. A few faltering moments exist, however, when it is unclear whether the dramatic goal is comical or critical. For the most part though, his stabs at profundity succeed in provoking audience awareness about the dangers of bigotry.
The 45-minute "war comedy" takes place in 1958 during the French-Algerian war. Each character serves more as a symbol than as a human being; this tactic transforms the play from strict drama into a parable.
Two French soldiers, womanizer Gaston-Phillip (Misha Glouberman) and rock n' roll fan Phillip-Gaston (Scott Cole) wear identical uniforms and mustaches. Neither soldier realizes that the man who wears a soldier's shirt with an Arabic skirt and who periodically reveals his patriotism to the audience is an Algerian spy (Jonathan Fisher).
Mademoiselle Fofo (evil incarnate by Elizabeth Humphrey) is a politically correct nightmare--she justifies Western imperialism in a powerful monologue that concludes with, "A free Algeria is a French Algeria."
The token Jew (coweringly played by Josh Lieb) among the characters is no more than a bundle of anti-semitic stereotypes. He dresses in European orthodox Jewish dress (no such Jew existed in Algeria at that time), and is the keeper of the money bags.
Winsome Brown, as the "old blind Arab woman," displays the most depth of any character as an embodiment of the native population's suffering. However, even she cannot gain audience sympathy because a French soldier beats her to death in a staged slapstick scene.
The "fete" of the title refers to the perverse surprise party planned by the French imperialists for the Algerians--the surprise is that the "dark-skinned" guests will all be killed. After the massacre, Fofo and Gaston-Phillip (not to be confused with Phillip-Gaston) speak of un-P.C. goals such as having "hundreds of pale babies" and avoiding "ethnic foods" and "Negro music."
Aron's satirical tone clearly criticizes the deep-rooted racism underlying French disdain for Algerians. More Subtly, however, Aron condemns the anti-Semitism that both the French and Algerians express. When the Arabs die, they dance to a Mozart flute accompaniment and ascend to heaven. Aron does not grant the "greedy matzah man" an equally dignified death because he has purposely fictionalized the character beyond the point of human life.
Aron has interspersed humor within the tragic content of the bigoted and bloody Algerian war. Such a combination may be offensive to some if not taken in the intended allegorical context. The Harvard community could only benefit from more controversial and creative theater experiences like this one.