There’s this misconception of mosh pits that they are dangerous places where sadomasochistic pagans and other godless folk maliciously take out their deep-seated aggression on each other. However if you’ve ever actually been in one you’ve likely experienced far more elation than hostility. There is real catharsis in getting shoved around, of relinquishing control over your physical autonomy.
I bring this up because I suspect the rising stars of The Inconvenience have known a pit or two. Their latest endeavor, the essential short-play collection “The Citizens Anthology,” is a testament to the combative path to truth and the very real barriers that stand in the way of understanding.
At a time when many theaters are announcing holiday spectacles, “The Citizens Anthology” represents a celebration of a very different kind. Equal parts joy and justice, these six plays are united by their desire to talk real about the social iniquities regularly faced by Americans with a particular focus on urbanites and regular nods to Chicagoans. From ineffectual folk singers and mantra-spouting self-improvement junkies to fiery rhetoricians and lovesick lesbians, this diverse proceeding is grounded in the acknowledgement that integrity is often tinged by selfishness.
Self-aware, hilarious and fatally sharp, “The Citizens Anthology” is personal even when frying up some of our culture’s biggest and ugliest fish. Race plays a significant and frequently uncomfortable role. The investigation of tensions between those from different backgrounds never feels exploitative though you should expect moments that will quite literally take your breath away.
Even at their most imaginative, these plays never feel simply allegorical. They are too alive, complex and unsettled. This latter quality seems to be of particular importance. “The Citizens Anthology” does not cater to its audience’s desire for resolution. The issues at the heart of these plays are knotty and pervasive. More importantly, they are real and ongoing.
Civic duty is not a checklist. Nor is it an obligation. We choose to be the change we want to see. Or we don’t. “The Citizens Anthology” amounts to ninety minutes of exceptional, progressive and indispensable theater. It recognizes that as an American you have a right to your independence and everything that comes along with it. However, it warns, don’t be surprised when someone gives you shit for it. (Kevin Greene)
The Inconvenience at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 North Lincoln, victorygardens.org, $25. Through November 15.