With the collapse of the Soviet Union earlier in the decade, people went around declaring that Marxism was dead. This got historian Howard Zinn's dander up. Best known for his book "A People's History of the United States," Zinn wrote a one-act, one-man play called "Marx in Soho" as a way to give old Karl a chance to defend himself.
Friday night on the campus of George Washington University, Brian Jones brought "Marx in Soho" to life, creating an engaging and charismatic character who protested that he was misunderstood by history. Drinking beer, slinging anecdotes, reading from "Das Kapital" and from contemporary newspapers (he is on leave from the afterlife, visiting modern America), Jones's Marx tries to explain why his political theories still apply. The audience was clearly with him as he critiqued the death penalty, mega-mergers and mass media. ("All those screens with all those pictures! You see so much and know so little! Doesn't anyone read history?" brought cheers for the author.)
You wouldn't imagine that social criticism could make for lively theater, but Zinn's text and Jones's acting deftly blended the political with the personal. Marx's life with his wife and daughter was woven into his tales of the Paris Commune and the building of American railroads with hardly a seam showing. Now and then, watery one-liners ("English men are like English food") would interrupt the flow, but for the most part Zinn (who was on hand for Friday's performance) and Jones succeeded in making Marx much more than a dusty theoretician.