Karl Marx in Hamilton

As if stepping out of a time machine, Karl Marx comes back (via the powerful words of historian and activist Howard Zinn, and the persona of actor Robert Weick) to observe his reputation in the modern world. Weick, appropriately sporting a monotone charcoal sport coat and salt and pepper hair, shook the walls of the Palace Wednesday night in the one-man show Marx in Soho. Zinn’s accurate research seeps through the well-crafted language of this hour-long monologue. Weick’s tour started on February 1st and will continue until the end of May. Although Weick plays a likeable Marx and a loyal husband to his wife Jenny throughout his rant, Marx had much more to discuss for his 60 minutes under the spotlight. Karl Marx was born into a family of rabbis and attended the University in Germany in 1818, at the age of seventeen. He was bright and radical. He utilized the format of Hegelian dialectics when synthesizing social dynamics via economic conditions. Like most activists, Marx spent much of his life in exile. In 1844, he was expelled from Paris but was financially supported by his loyal friend, Friedrich Engels. Finally in 1848, Marx published The Communist Manifesto while making a small amount of money as a daily correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune. The Communist Manifesto comments on the divide between the powerful and vulnerable, rich and poor, minority and majority and the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. The rift between these opponents was expanding rapidly in the mid-19th century, and Marx did not hesitate to criticize the evil human nature that the social environment was creating. Marx’s ability to take his freedom of speech to its fullest potential was both modern and revolutionary for his time. His gray pony-tail rested calmly on his back while relaying his lines like a foreign language professor; hand motions symbolically working with each word for a clear explanation. His satirical tone was attractive to the young audience. Marx slandered the excess of “cell phones, people sleeping on the streets, the gross national product – yes, gross.” He mocks himself for his unfortunate disease – “people must get up off their asses … is that too radical for you? Well just pretend you have boils!” He slows down for a moment to shed his blazer and mellow his tone by talking about his fond wife Jenny and loyal thanks to Engels, “a saint … had to give us money to pay the bills”. He takes a moment to interact with the audience like he would have in the old days of theatre production, “Jenny said the book was too long, too detailed – she used the word ponderous … is that boring?” Through the eyes of Zinn, “Weick captured Marx and his ideas with the proper strength and subtlety, moving very effectively through a range of moods: humorous, angry and poignant. In short, we are very happy with what he’s done.” Weick takes the spotlight from the moment he comes in, humming and looking around at the Palace’s blue and green walls with disgust. He paces, flails his hands and finally opens his mouth exclaiming, “Why is it necessary to call me dead again and again? Spread the word, Marx is back!” He fondles his old cognac leather brief case, a newspaper and an empty glass and smoothly transitions by stating, “The most revolutionary act to engage in is telling the truth.” It is for this that Marx is well-known. The audience was filled with interested students, many of whom are currently taking The Challenge of Modernity and reading Marx’s notorious Communist Manifesto. Colgate has never been afraid to mix education with pleasure. There’s nothing like a history lesson amidst a great theatrical performance to show students the great importance of such revolutionary figures. Weick taught the audience about the Paris Commune that was elected in 1871. His appreciation for Paris’ drive to improve the city became apparent as he uttered, “If you’re going to be an exile, do it in Paris,” and Marx would know best. The Commune lasted only three months but had an everlasting effect on workers of the city. From March 26th to May 30th, “Working men of all countries” did what Marx asked: “Unite!” and all mechanisms of the city were shut down. It was an attempt to establish fair working conditions, but was only a part time affirmation, a possibility. He recalled this great time of “True democracy” in which the first legislative body in history came about to represent the poor. Napoleon the Third was a “buffoon, a stage act” in the words of Marx. Weick rolled up his cuffs and announced that “philosophers had only analyzed the world, but the point was to change it.” Perhaps this is the greater message going out to the youthful Colgate audience. His passion for radical change should influence us to get up and change something – if it’s broke, fix it!No one left the Palace Wednesday without something to think about. Whether their reviews were positive or negative, Weick/Marx’s vehemence and insistent tone provoked us all to look at the world around us. Take a stance. Are Marx’s ideals relevant for today’s world? Or are they antiquated? He marched off the stage leaving his audience unsure if his rant was over or if he was about to do something more drastic. A few claps echoed throughout the room until he reentered running back to his table in center stage. He grabbed his bottle, washed it back with a few deep gulps and left the stage for good.