Laura Liguori and Dylan Wittrock. Photo by Ed Krieger.

‘The Red Dress’ Theatre Review @ The Odyssey Theatre

November 10, 2017

(Playing through November 19th)


In another installment of theatre which is attempting to hold a mirror upon the contemporary society through the recrudesence of the historically worst form of totalitarianism, Nazism, The Red Dress is most poignant in the cultural force imposed upon society as opposed to the more conventional ideas of totalitarianism being brutishly violent. That violence in such a society is always an undercurrent, a threat to pock and prod the fearful into conforming to the vulgarity. And the play strikes a chord in revealing what that conformity appears as.


Similarly to Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, albeit less grandiose in successfully revealing an inner truth about the human condition, The Red Dress has its curious eyes set upon discovering how a liberal society deforms into a consolidated, terrifying, tyranny. “Fascism” is the colloquial coinage of such terror, and is loosely, abundantly thrown around these days; which is unfortunate because, like how vacuous “genocide” has become, the idea of a conglomerated organized society directed by an oppressive minority of individuals is dissimilar to contemporary American government. Wild rhetoric about immigration control extrapolated to human extermination camps is a ludicrous connection.


But the play angles itself not at making such a hyperbolic suggestion, but at critiquing the idea of a nationhood refusing an other, be it Jews, Mexicans, or Arabs. On this point, the melody falls flat, as no comparison can be made with standard population inflows and the abject scapegoating of a nation’s minority population for its ills. To compare refusing criminal immigrants with the horrific racialist theories that were behind the Nazi party, which made it into a dogma percolated downward in a Cathedral manner, is absurd, however fearfully anxious the foreshadow is casted.


But this is a small note sung amidst the music. Again, the concentration of the play is in the promulgation of Nazi dogma into all facets of society. It authentically reveals that a society becomes abducted when the means of production become controlled by the ruling party. This is fascism. And this is enlightening to see reenacted.


This is the titular center point – of a strong woman refusing to conform by choosing to wear a dress that is not within code, being dispossessed of her marriage because her husband would rather obey and be rewarded the world through the loss of his soul. It is a terrifying truth, that the majority of humanity will break when stressed to survive or die freely. It is this innate vulnerability to the common man which can be irked to the point of obedience, much like domesticating a herd animal. It mandates, then, as dutiful obligation to the posterity of humanity, the effort of an individual to become an owner of his will power; to be able to live self-sufficiently and not contingent upon the whims of society. Arguably, this is the crowning achievement of The United States of America.


The brash historical audacity to be a nation of freemen, of mavericks, makes America’s very genetic fabric allergic to such precipitous political economy conglomeration. Here then, the play could have been more revealing. The German people by necessity must be susceptible to such mercurial political dynamics, where other peoples are not. We are not allowed to see, for instance, how keenly the average German intakes the Nazi dogma. They are always but in the shadows. But this would require an inordinately patient effort in understanding the historical condition of the  Volk, which is tangential to center stage. It is a good thing, then, that the play sparks wonder about the history of the German people.


Furthering the thought on self-sufficiency as natural resistance to fascism is the notion of a righteous call of duty of feminism. We see in an antiquated society, with women as purely subservient to producing for society, the utter helplessness in changing the course of history. The Red Dress wearing actress was helpless in the movement of her filmmaking husband toward despotism. Her lack of self-reliance, in toto with the rest of her society’s women who shared similar apathy and ghastliness at the Master Race proposition, doomed the immediate future humanity of the Germans. Much brooding thought is poured upon the horrors of Nazism, but there is oversight in the atrocious consequences of the German people as their vicious tidal wave which drowned the continent ebbed; how many German millions suffered at the hands of the Russian Red Army, for instance? Certainly if the repercussions were foreknowledge, something would have been done. Or would it?


We assume the best in humanity, when the reality may be uglier. That when a society behaves so self-destructively, drunk on its own delusion of historical veneration, it may not actually care about the future world for its children. The taste of the immanence of glory, through every rung of society’s ladder, may be a price the majority will pay for. Red Dress martyrdom, however picayunish a display, is other-worldly, and explains its dearth as the war pigs began their squealing. A culture, then, which values what is transcendent to mankind will always be impervious to such delusions of grandeur.



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