[The following review is an exclusive first-hand account of a hostage situation that broke out at 12 PM at The Living Theatre on August 26, 2012.]
I thought I was going to see a play. I was wrong.
The setting was deceiving enough. People were lined up outside a theater. A person from the Fringe Festival was wearing a vest and passing out tickets. I received my two press/industry tickets and gave one to my friend. We were led into what looked like the stage and took seats in the front row.
Then the actresses wandered through the crowd and asked the audience members to sign in on different clipboards.
I should have known then that something was wrong. Yes, theaters will often ask people to sign up on mailing lists. I myself have signed up for mailing lists for about five different theaters in Manhattan, because one of my hobbies is pretending to have more time and money to see plays than I actually do. But this was different. Alice Winslow was standing in front of me with a big smile on her face, asking me to sign in with my name and the last four digits of my Social Security number.
I was confused. I was a little worried. But I brushed off those feelings and signed anyway. After all, I knew Alice. I interviewed her only a few weeks ago in a very nice roundtable discussion. She couldn’t possibly mean me any harm, could she?
If only I had learned not to be so trusting. The “show” wasn’t ten minutes in before Alice, Tara Schuster, and Alexandra Panzer informed us, the audience, that we were, in fact, not going to see a play, but were being held hostage in the theater as participants in some kind of revolution.
Then they came out and wrapped police tape all around our chairs and told us that we would have to sit for the next seven hours as they lectured us about the upcoming revolution – and demanded our thanks for trapping us into this new world order. They assured us that if we didn’t feel naturally inclined to follow their lead and feel grateful, the Stockholm Syndrome would kick in soon enough and make us happy that they imprisoned us.
At first, I was scared, especially of Tara. She’s the most aggressive one of the group, yelling at all of us and calling us lazy fat slobs, and several times I thought she would leap into the audience and grab one of us by force, if not held back by Alexandra and Alice. Though, actually, the thought of one of them holding her back wasn’t too comforting – Alexandra was the nicest one of the hostage-takers and really kind of sweet, but she was way too flighty and distracted, not even showing up to the revolution on time because it “felt like a Monday.” And Alice, well…she smiles a lot and dresses very neatly, and she seems more together than Tara, but I have a feeling she’d cut me in my sleep if I got on her bad side. That smile was hiding something sinister, I can tell – a Type A personality dialed up to 11 and possibly wielding sharp knives if crossed.
As you can see, the situation was pretty intense. I was even more anxious when they started offering their prayers and salutations to their goddess Mother, accompanied by an aggrandizing hand gesture. I thought I was going to be indoctrinated against my will into some sort of creepy cult. Fortunately, as the women continued to talk, I could quickly tell that they’d never be able to pull off this indoctrination, because they were too busy contradicting each other to make anything work. Whether Alice and Alexandra were trying to talk Tara down from screaming at all of us, or Alice and Tara were sniping at Alexandra for being too flaky, or Tara and Alexandra were avoiding Alice’s wrath for disagreeing with her about Beyonce, they were constantly arguing and trying to prove which one of them was the biggest revolutionary of all.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Alexandra, Alice, and Tara’s beleaguered assistant, Michael. He seemed to be there by choice, but they were always yelling at him to go back to his cubby at the back of the stage and be quiet. They didn’t trust him very much, addressing him always as “Michael – if that is your real name.” After checking the program, I could see that the women were right not to trust him, as he seems to go by both “Michael” and some actor named “Chris Lowell.” He seemed put-upon and pushed around by the three women leading the revolution, but also had Alexandra’s lines memorized in case she didn’t show up and seemed disappointed when he couldn’t perform as her understudy. Whenever Alexandra, Alice, and Tara failed to find common ground, they could always find a common enemy – or at least target for their disgust – in Michael-if-that-is-your-real-name. I felt sorry for him, but he seemed to take everything in stride, surreptitiously warning the hostages not to take the pills that the revolutionaries provided.
All in all, I would say that the revolution was a success, at least from the point of view of the revolutionaries. Yes, they were scatterbrained and prone to in-fighting, and yes, they left the stage after seventy-five minutes even though they had originally promised seven to nine hours of revolutionary indoctrination. But many hostages (including my plus one) were uproariously laughing during the lockdown. After they were freed, said hostages lined up by the ballot box to vote for I <3 Revolution as their favorite show of the Fringe Festival.
I, fortunately, remain immune to the charms of Alexandra, Alice, Tara, and Michael-if-that-is-your-real-name. The Stockholm Syndrome they wished upon their hostages never affected me. As I was saying the other day to the Mother *claps hands, makes aggrandizing gesture*…oh. Never mind.
I <3 Revolution played at The Living Theatre at 21 Clinton St from August 10 to August 26.