100 years of Attitude approaches the theme of execution, imperialism, invasion, and colonialism making several explicit references to the war in Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, and the official discourse of the US president George W. Bush’s administration regarding the role of the United States in the international context. The play talks about the end of the world as a subjective experience, that is captured in the following sentence: “When everybody around you is dying… that’s the end of the world.” In the piece, a Christian executioner prays before killing and an American family comes to live in town taking over the local homes. The people of this fictional lesbian town are executed several times, always coming back to life; the life of a community prevails over that of the individual.
The HOT! Festival is a celebration of queer culture. Now in its 13th year, this month-long production by Dixon Place provides a venue for a variety of theatre, dance, music, performance art, or as they say; “Homoeroticism for the whole family.” One of this year’s offerings is Susana Cook’s 100 Years of Attitude. It is a parody loosely based on the classic Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. I have never attempted to read 100 Years of Solitude, but a quick Cliff’s Note study (thank God for the Internet) revealed a complex layering of one family’s history, where the men grow up only to stagnate in their memories and their incestuously conceived children are born with the tails of pigs. Cook’s chronicle makes a facetious substitution: ‘Everybody thought there were no more lesbians in Macondos’. Surprise, there are. And it’s here that Attitude meets Solitude.
Cook’s play touches upon some of Marquez’s themes using the same magic realism and political bite. What I enjoy most about Cook’s parody is her raw, in your face, political rants. How could you have an evening of lesbian theatre without one or two good diatribes? On this score Cook does not let us down.
What the play does wonderfully is take current American politics and good old Yankee brutality and reveal it from the other side, the “people’s” side, in third world or other underdeveloped nations. Cook shows that the U.S. loves to condemn others for the very barbarism we ourselves have made into an art form.
The “people” are subject to the whims of the powerful; always abused, neglected, and suffering while subject to brutal law and order. Cook covers it all, from hunger and poverty to the inflicted dogma of religious belief, military retribution, and the stigma of being sexually “different.” It is here that she is able to make good use of magic realism and keep us engaged while making great leaps to tell her story.
Cook has assembled an eclectic group of “ass kicking dykes” to carry her tale of woe forward. Many of them are performance artists in their own right; most of them are not actors. I found that to be problematic. The play comes across as under-rehearsed, and the lack of acting skills gets in the way of the comic timing and loses some of the funnier bits. With a few more performances under their belts however, this ensemble will likely tighten things up.
Cook’s writing is simple, poetic, and to the point. Her energy as a performer combined with her dramatic features makes her enjoyable to watch on stage. Standout performances are also given by D’Lo as Aureliano Solo, Simba Yangala as Maria, and Marisa Ragonese as Bridgett. The lighting and settings are simple and effective and the score by Julian Mesri is dark, humorous, and a perfect complement to the text.
I think the play would benefit from someone else taking over the directing responsibilities; still 100 Years of Attitude makes its point with wit, rage and infectious energy.