Marx in Soho

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater
Print

The late historian Howard Zinn is probably best known for his highly praised tome, A People’s History of the United States, but he was also a dramatist who in 1999 scripted the one-man play Marx in Soho, which tells of the life of 19th-century philosopher Karl Marx — not only as as political and economic theorist — but also as a family man endeavoring to provide a living for his spouse and their children.

While the monodrama proves more informative and educational than theatrically powerful, it is nevertheless a tribute to the budding theatre company — The Social Stage — which under the artistic direction of Ye’ela Rosenfeld aims to couple its socially relevant productions with salon-like discussions based on the socially conscious stagings it produces.

For example, at the reviewed performance, in which Karl Marx is convincingly portrayed by veteran performer Gera Hermann (Ms. Rosenfeld provides the show’s straightforward direction and Sarah Smalik lends a simple production design to the proceedings), UCLA Professor of History Russell Jacoby facilitated a lively dialogue on the dearth of Marxist- oriented faculty members in university political science, history, and sociology departments. She points out that left-leaning professors can be easily found in such academic departments as English literature. What’s more, the admission price to The Social Stage’s shows is on a pay-what-you-can basis; no one turned away for lacking the price of a ticket (a more than fair $5 minimum is suggested).

In Marx in SoHo we learn not only about Marx’s personal situation, his physical challenges (he suffered from a regular rash of debilitating boils), and his impoverished lifestyle, we also learn about his economic theories, like his notion of surplus labor, which is the labor performed in excess of the labor necessary to produce the means of livelihood of the worker. The "surplus" here means the additional labor a worker has to do in his/her job, beyond earning their own keep. The “surplus” becomes the profit earned by the employer, which according to Marx amounts to theft.

The Social Stage is the first and only such theater company in Los Angeles. Its mission is to “encourage audiences to connect and converse about social and economic issues.” It is a noble and necessary purpose that couldn’t be more timely.

For more information about The Social Stage — including performance schedules, guest speakers and volunteer opportunities write to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .