Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Citizen Josh

Also see Susan's review of Altar Boyz

Josh Kornbluth
Arena Stage in Arlington, Virginia, is hosting monologuist Josh Kornbluth's study of participatory democracy from a personal perspective, Citizen Josh, as part of its Arena Presents series complementing the regular season. Kornbluth, a rumpled, balding fellow of middle age, knows how to entertain and makes a lot of good points, although he is probably preaching to the choir in this venue.

Kornbluth comes from a left-wing Jewish background—one of his earlier works is Red Diaper Baby—and he now lives with his family in Berkeley, California. In the current show, he presents his growing interest in political activism, beginning with an effort to replace outdated, dangerous playground equipment with something the neighborhood's children could actually use.

"We're very close to the election and it's getting ugly," Kornbluth tells the audience as he describes his efforts to make the world a better place and how he is learning to treat political opponents with respect. He shares stories from his undergraduate days at Princeton, which he calls "the finishing school for future world despots," and tells how an incident from his family history inspired his professor to make a connection between Don Quixote and radical democracy. (Other people may consider a determined idealist to be simply deluded or naïve, similar to the aspiring knight of La Mancha, but such efforts can have real and positive results. Kornbluth provides some examples.)

Director David Dower has collaborated with Kornbluth on several previous works, and he clearly understands how to showcase him to best advantage. The performer fits comfortably in Alexander B. Nichols' production design, with its self-consciously "intellectual" stacks of books and visual screen.

While Kornbluth is the solo performer, Citizen Josh is not a one-sided conversation. Dower distributes opinion questionnaires to audience members before each performance, and presents the results in pie-chart format at the end of the show. Also, the schedule includes post-show conversations after most performances, with community representatives ranging from libertarian activists to environmentalists and voter advocates.

Arena Stage
Citizen Josh
October 9th —26th
Written and performed by Josh Kornbluth
In collaboration with director David Dower
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or

Photo: Pat Johnson

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