Excerpts From the Attorney General's Report on Pornography | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Excerpts From the Attorney General's Report on Pornography

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Here's a show whose script, packed with obscene words and indecent images, was entirely funded by the taxpayers--not through the National Endowment for the Arts, but through the Justice Department. The excerpts, drawn from a 1986 survey compiled by a commission working under Reagan-administration attorney general Edwin Meese, include a reading of 2,325 magazine titles (from A Cock Between Friends to Yummy Black); testimony by radical feminist Andrea Dworkin linking pornography to female degradation; a statement by commission member and Catholic priest Bruce Ritter (written before Ritter resigned from Covenant House, the New York runaway shelter he headed, after being accused of molesting some of his teenage wards); first-person accounts of rape victims; and the FBI's frame-by-frame description of Deep Throat, enacted by plastic dolls as tabletop theater. While the crusading tone of the report--and the political grandstanding with which Meese commissioned it--are ripe for ridicule, this production by New York's experimental Hard Place Theater isn't interested in cheap shots. Instead, it brings out the complexities of an issue that has aligned leftists with right-wing conservatives while dividing the feminist and progressive movements over the competing priorities of free speech and a safe society. Juxtaposing a menu of erotic fantasies so outlandish as to be laughable with compelling commentary on the realities of sexual abuse, the six-person ensemble directed by Clay Shirky raises the question: Is there a causal relationship between pornography and sexual violence, or are both symptoms of a sick culture whose urge to repress and tidy up sexual impulses leads inevitably to the opposite result? Hard Place's three-night Chicago appearance is presented as part of Bailiwick Repertory's gay- and lesbian-oriented Pride Performance Series '91, which also includes The Lisbon Traviata, Jerker, and The Misanthrope (see separate listings). At Jane Addams Hull House, July 12 through 14 (fourth-floor gym, 3212 N. Broadway, 883-1090). Friday-Sunday, 8:30 PM; related free panel discussions are scheduled for Saturday after the performance and Sunday at 5 PM in the same space. $10.

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