There are some interesting exchanges. At one point Gus argues with his daughter, a labor lawyer active in Democratic Party politics, who tells him that his problem is rigidity. When Gus criticizes her support for Democrat John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, she reminds him cuttingly that the CP supported Kerry as well.
None of this is developed, however. It is dropped as soon as it arises. There is no reference to the CPUSA’s slavish support for Roosevelt, its abandonment of any struggle for socialism in the interests of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR. In a play whose central character has spent most of his adult life in the Communist Party, something more is called for.
At another point, Gus refers revealingly to the source of the bitterness that is eating away at him. He begins to talk about his own history as a trade unionist, as well as a CP member. After repeatedly boasting of his role in winning the GAI, or guaranteed annual income, for New York longshoremen displaced by automation in the 1970s, he admits that this deal, the supposed high point of his union struggle, abandoned all the younger workers, who got nothing and were thrown into the street. “When we agreed that some, not all, would get, we gave up the union, we gave up representing a class, we became…each one for himself.” This comment says something important about the evolution of the entire trade union movement in the post-World War II period.
Overall, however, the playwright is far too tentative in his treatment of these issues. Kushner has written a play of ideas, but he is somewhat cautious about how big to make these ideas, how much to confront his listeners or readers. One gets the impression that one of the intended audiences is a large section of the 1960s generation, and that disappointed and cynical ex-radicals would not be seriously challenged or offended, but simply nod in weary agreement.
Gus himself is of this later generation. He is not among the workers who built the unions in the bitter struggles of the 1930s, but were tragically miseducated and betrayed by the CP. His generation, coming of age at the time of the crisis of Stalinism in the 1950s, drew no serious conclusions and went on to make its peace with capitalism, even if some (like Gus) pretended otherwise. Gus’s despair is based in large part on a willful ignorance. It is the culmination of a life of political duplicity.
this review says everything i couldn't when i saw the play. i just knew that i didn't buy it. (i also didn't think the actor playing gus looked old enough to play the part -but i did think he did a great job in his role).
what i did know was that tony k had been praised way too much and was no longer interested in challenging or even entertaining.
the play was 1 of those that boasts 'love me because i am 'radical'' - and yet there was nothing radical about the play. it was all so conventional except for that which was firmly rooted in the past.
go read the review in full. he really nails it.
let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'