We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything Is P.R. questions the role of spectators in protest art | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Review

We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything Is P.R. questions the role of spectators in protest art

There is method to the mess in this Red Tape Theatre production.

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

The YouTube video of Pussy Riot's brief provocation—about 48 seconds—at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior on February 21, 2012, makes their actions seem almost anodyne by comparison to, say, Act Up's protests at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City 30 years ago. Yet the price paid by the women arrested that day, two of whom served 21 months in prison for "hooliganism," resonates through Barbara Hammond's kaleidoscopic and chaotic We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything Is P.R., now in a thrashing, unapologetically messy production at Red Tape under Kate Hendrickson's direction.

Though Hammond's script uses actual trial transcripts (revealing that kangaroos had the run of the court) and other original sources for some of the dialogue, this decidedly isn't a docudrama. It's a pastiche of satirical interludes, historical tidbits about Russian autocrats past and present, and performance art aiming to turn the performers into an updated Orthodox troupe of yurodivy, or holy fools, who challenged norms in the name of a higher religious calling.

More is more in Hammond's telling, so we veer from Casey Chapman's oily Vladimir Putin to William Rose II's Sergei, a professor imprisoned for protesting Putin who goes on a life-threatening hunger strike—without the benefit of the international attention Pussy Riot received. (The "P.R." in the title carries a double meaning here.) It's sometimes overwhelming and occasionally hard to track, but this bold scattershot approach ultimately asks us to choose between passive reception of protest-art-as-entertainment and being our own agents of acting up for justice.   v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment