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Hit the Wall/Oohrah!
THEATER REVIEW
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2012-02-29

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Playwright: Ike Holtert/Bekah Brunstetter. At: The Inconvenience/Livewire Theatre at Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted St. Tickets: 312-335-1650; www.steppenwolf.org/garage; $20-$45. Runs through: April 8

It sparked a revolution, that steamy summer night in 1969. Amid an America shaken by war protesters, hippies, feminists, the Youth International Party, the Black Panthers and assorted factions renouncing the status quo, a routine police-raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar brought forth a resounding "No More!" from a still-invisible minority and a movement, united in pride and fellowship, was born.

Ike Holtert's 90-minute docudrama is not content to echo the legendary ( and frequently spurious ) lore surrounding this benchmark event, but instead has drawn upon interviews with documented witnesses to winnow the story down to eight representative archetypes: Latino Tano and African-American Mika, the observers; Newbie, the suburban WASP; Gay-A, the Wall Street WASP; Carson, the proud transvestite; Peg, the teenage butch-lezzie; Cliff, the counterculture drifter; Roberta, the motor-mouth activist; Madeline, the uncomprehending family member; and Cop, the voice—and muscle—of authority. Each will play their part in forging a collective identity capable of demanding change.

The Inconvenience replicates the atmosphere of that fatal evening with an accuracy as vivid and visceral as a punch to the belly. The crash of live rock music as we enter ( earplugs are available at the box office ) is our first warning of what is to come. Over a quick 90 minutes, we will move from simmering stoops in Sheridan Square to a sweaty dance floor in the Stonewall Inn bar, and outside to revel in an orgy of violence, culminating in the rallying cry of "Out of the closets and into the streets!" The band was smart to choose Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" for its post-curtain farewell on opening night. Not since Among the Thugs has there been adrenaline-pumping spectacle to incite audiences to beating on car hoods and kicking over trash cans on their way home from the theater.

Oh, there's something about a man in uniform—everybody in Bekah Brunstetter's keenly observant family drama Oohrah! agrees on that—but where they differ is on what that uniform signifies to them. Brunstetter is to be commended for her exploration of hitherto-overlooked issues reflecting multiple perspectives—solitary wives, alienated children, eager groupies, gaming wannabes, envious 4-F rejects, and the returning GIs, themselves—but this makes for two hours containing enough material for two, or even three, plays, in order for each of her provocative insights to receive the discussion they deserve.


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