And the Rand Played On aka The Hell with Edutainment, Let’s Have Fun! by John Ray and performed by the Burying Beetles Collective is a mad romp into the life and work and adorning fans of Ayn Rand, America’s rabid advocate for capitalism and social darwinism. Her writings and philosophy were a warning against creeping socialism and unionists’ aspiration to drag the country into a dull decay. Rand, with her thousand-page books that hail the self-reliant individualist as hero (with a distinctly social realist aesthetic), is the darling (or führer) of the tea party movement. Reading her books as an adolescent launched Paul Ryan’s career as a politician. Rand, with her philosophy of “objectivism” and selfishness, her writings are fodder for adolescents who think they have the world licked — they’re also fodder for those stuck in adolescence.
I had not seen the Burying Beetles in action before, but here, under the direction of Cheryl Couch, their approach is manic — they crank up the energy as high as it will go, then toss in jalapeños. While the first half of this “play” (and I use the term “play” loosely) involves audience participation, the collective is kind enough to involve only those audience members who want to participate. So if you’re not in for that sort of thing, rest easy: They won’t yank you onto the stage.
There are assorted game shows in which these volunteers take part — each one proves the superiority of the victor. There is also much video (or film) footage of Rand being interviewed. I’m reminded of when Roy Cohn used to appear on Nightline: Rand, like Cohn, had the beady eyes of the paranoid. Information in this 50-minute romp flies at you faster than the speed of a ticker tape — and very little, if any, of it flatters Rand.
This production is a very physical, even at time swarthy, affair. These actors go at their business hammer, tongs, sweat and navel wax. Though there is a good deal of body heat thrown off by these actors, by the end there’s a discernible chill. As most good theatre is, And the Rand Played On... is a cautionary romp, and the mirror it holds up sets off alarms.
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: 9:15 p.m. May 31, 8 p.m. June 2, 9 p.m. June 4 and 7 p.m. June 5 at Art Academy Auditorium. Find more of CityBeat's ongoing 2013 Cincy Fringe Festival coverage, including performance reviews, commentary and venue details , here.