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The Perjured City, or the Awakenings of the Furies



THE PERJURED CITY, OR THE AWAKENING OF THE FURIES, StreetSigns, at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church. A woman screams hysterically through the stained-glass windows of the church that houses this StreetSigns production that the city is "a slaughterhouse" administered by conscience-free politicians and money-grubbing MDs. It seems that government officials, with the complicity of well-placed medical professionals, have knowingly distributed HIV-infected plasma, resulting in the deaths of 11,237 children, including the woman's son. Meeting some of these callous doctors and their unctuous attorneys, we find they're so evil they may as well have horns and cloven hooves. Eventually a band of homeless people joins the betrayed mother, bemoaning their society's lack of justice and proclaiming, "Let's change the world."

This show might succeed as a 30-minute bit of agitprop. But broad stereotypes and facile politics grow tiresome after an hour, let alone three. Helene Cixous' The Perjured City, being given its professional American premiere after a Northwestern University student production last winter, transforms the 1985 French blood-bank scandal into postmodernist Greek tragedy, complete with a narrating Aeschylus, several unleashed Furies, and an oracular goddess. Director Derek Goldman gives the affair a ritualized solemnity, but his penchant for easy dichotomies--lawyers are walking oil slicks, homeless people are saints-in-waiting--keeps the audience from ever having to wonder who's right and who's wrong. Most disappointing, the only people with AIDS worth talking about here are children, a sentiment that aligns Cixous with the conservative state she would like to indict. --Justin Hayford

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