April 1—April 20 $35–$62.50
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D St. NW, Washington, DC
(202) 393-3939
The lively discussions that follow performances of Arguendo don’t take long to acknowledge that the case in question, Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc.—about the constitutionality of South Bend, Ind.’s enforcement of its ban on “public” nudity inside the walls of an adults-only nightclub, which the court ultimately upheld—feels awfully quaint a generation later. Elevator Repair Service uses a cast of five, each playing multiple roles, to dramatize their compressed version of the actual oral arguments of Jan. 8, 1991. Only three actors represent the nine Justices at any given time (there’s a lot of double and triple-casting), which makes things confusing right away. Most of the humor comes from the way the justices nonverbally make known their displeasure or distraction, or confer in whispers among themselves as each attorney presents his argument, although these gifted comic actors can wring a laugh from an inflection, too. The show is at its best when it deviates from the day’s argument to incorporate two bits from different pieces of period video Collins and company found in the course of their research. In one of them, Chief Justice Rehnquist explains why he chose to have gold stripes added to his judicial robe. In another, Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks about designing a custom collar for hers. Moments like these get at the fundamental secrecy of the court’s deliberations and hint at the possibilities of a piece that would delve more deeply into that. [CK]

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Dec. 7—Jan. 3
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