Friday, August 11, 2006

(I am) Nobody's Lunch

by Gerald Berkowitz

Members of this New York-based company interviewed a cross-section of Americans, asking where they got their information, what scared them and whether they thought Tom Cruise is gay. Their responses have been shaped into a fast-moving mix of spoken word and song whose polish and professionalism raise it far above usual fringe standards.

What the interviews suggest is that many Americans seem to make it their business not to be informed, out of fear of being forced then to think and have opinions, while those who do absorb information and misinformation are generally made unhappy by it. Curious, for example, about the public reaction to the story of Jessica Lynch, the soldier whose heroic rescue was later called into question - the interviewers ring up every J Lynch in the phone book and find that most have no view on the topic at all.

Much of the power of the piece comes from evocative juxtapositions - a Muslim student uncomfortable at being asked any questions by anyone and a Homeland Security staff member who knows how ill-prepared they actually are; or a conspiracy theorist who sounds nutty until he is put next to a real nutcase.

Occasional songs by Michael Friedman punctuate the hour and provide variety while being strong in themselves, notably I Wouldn’t Be Surprised, a wry collection of conspiracy theories and a mordent Brecht-Weill-flavoured finale.