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'Guillotine: Heads Will Roll': a mini-review

History is repeating itself in Allentown tonight (and every night through Sunday) in "Guillotine: Heads Will Roll," a jarring new piece of agitprop theater that draws some utterly chilling historical parallels. It was conceived and directed by Joe Siracusa and presented by the rabble-rousing Infringement staple the Subversive Theatre Collective.

See if any of this sounds familiar: A leader ascends to power during a time of great economic crisis, prior to which his country has racked up massive debts to fight two foreign wars. The divide between the working class and the aristocracy is growing ever wider, even as said leader is thwarted in his half-hearted attempts to solve the country's economic woes by demanding the rich pay their fair share of taxes.

Siracusa's timing couln't be better, because the line between Louis XIV and Barack Obama (at least up until the point at which things turned really ugly during the French Revolution) has never looked more direct.

The play is set largely in 17th century France, with frequent dirgessions to listen in on bits fo wisdom from historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu and Thomas Jefferson. It's a sort of century-spanning mash-up of lessons gleaned from those who have fought and often paid dearly for their freedom -- or whose voices are connected more closely to such people than most contemporary playwrights could ever hope to be.

What this free show may lack in polished performances, it more than gains back in spirit, and in the resounding words of its many eloquent protagonists, smartly lifted from the pages of history by Siracusa. Anyone who's been reading today's headlines and is in need of some historical perspective (which, I think, applies to all of us) would do well to check out this show. 

--Colin Dabkowski


Infringement Festival | Theater
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