Toad City Productions at the Backdoor Theatre, 4319 SE Hawthorne, 736-1027, Thurs-Sat 8pm, through April 24th, $10-12
Remember the '60s? Of course you don't, you liar! But based on archival research, we do know that the '60s were very bearded times; times of immense social upheaval, when girls wore deerskin panties and sitar music filled the air. The United States was waging an unpopular war in the name of liberating a country from evil, and young people everywhere were taking drugs together. God bless the little hippies, kids the world over taking to the streets in revolutionary protest. The Europeans did it with style, invading the streets of Paris, Madrid, and Berlin with their Little Red Books and their rolled cigarettes. Student protesters were the book-smart children of the middle class, with sullen eyes and hearts broken by their own bourgeois heritage.
Max is brought to us by the mind of reckless genius Günther Grass, who, still active today at age 77, has chronicled his native Germany's chaotic identity since the devastation of WWII. Grass looks at the '60s through the eyes of an ambitious dissident, trying to bridge the contemptuous gap between the young radicals of the '60s and their parents, the children of fascism.
Nathan Langston, as the young Flip Scherbaum, is the hero of the play, but more importantly, the hero of this production. With a heartthrob wink and boundless energy, Langston's Flip is really captivating, a joy to see. Amazingly this is Langston's first performance in a play (his reputation as a performance artist and writer notwithstanding), and audiences have a chance to see a great actor in the embryonic stages of his career. But for all of Langston's charisma and spot-on delivery (he actually memorized his lines), as a whole Max fails to inspire. In the play's other main role, Mark Twohy plays a radical soul eased into a pair of comfortable shoes, and lazily trips over line after line. While parallels are meant to be drawn between '60s Germany and contemporary America, the story is too esoteric for its audience. Oh, and just a tip to whoever's writing the program notes: make sure to spell the playwright's name correctly. TOUSSAINT PERRAULT