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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 1999
I attended the first performance of "Marx in Soho" and was thrilled to find it brilliant, funny, and dead-on politically. Zinn gives Marx an opportunity to defend himself against modern-day critics who claim that his theories led to the atrocities of state capitalist regimes. Those familiar with Marx will be particularly entertained; those new to socialist ideas may find themselves moved to action. Catch the next performance - Dec. 9-11, Chopin Theater, Chicago.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2001
AH! In typical Zinn fashion, "Marx in Soho" is a joy to read, especially for those of us who are already familiar with Marx. I would not recommend this book as "the first book on Marx" - but rather as a definite book to be included in any collection on Marx or on socialism, and, especially, in any collection of Zinn's brilliant and empowering works.
The one-man play is also a true pleasure to watch!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 20, 2008
Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the bankruptcy of communism and the superiority of capitalism have become received pieces of wisdom. Who could possibly be more irrelevant, more yesterday's news, than Karl Marx?

One of the great virtues of Howard Zinn's play "Marx in Soho" is that he pays that question the compliment of taking it seriously. He recognizes that there's a time and a place for serious discussion of a thinker's value, but that you have to get folks actually interested before that can take place. "Marx in Soho" is an attempt to do just that by (1) trying to show Marx the man beneath Marx the myth by exploring relations between him and his wife and children, and (2) trying to show that Marx's analyses of capitalism in fact are still incredibly--frighteningly--relevant. The future shock, hypergrowth of technology, globalization, international free trade agreements, the consumer society, the increasing disparity between haves and have-nots, both within first world nations and between first and third world nations: it was all predicted in the Manifesto and Das Kapital.

Zinn displays real skill in writing the soliloquy that his character Marx gives. Wit, humor, pathos, and nondidactic social analysis are woven together into a seamless and riveting presentation. And it all carries typical Zinnian (is that a word?) characteristics: it's nondogmatic, well-informed, inspirational. At the end of the play, Zinn has Marx say two things worth taking to the bank (no capitalist pun intended). The first (p. 47) is this: "Let's not speak anymore about capitalism, socialism. Let's just speak of using the incredible wealth of the earth for human beings...Don't ask who deserves it. Every human deserves it."

Here's the second (and remember that Marx suffered his whole life from painful boils): "I have a suggestion. Pretend you have boils. Pretend that sitting on your a-- gives you enormous pain, so you must stand up. You must move, must act" (pp. 56-47).

Fantastic!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 1999
In his grand tradition of delivering a distinctive approach to the consideration of historical eras and personalities, Zinn has once more provided a marvelously innovative interpretation of a figure few would otherwise consider comical. In this play, Zinn portrayed a fairly disgruntled Marx and gave the character a sharp wit that allowed the reader to become comfortable with the figure, impressed by his perceptive sense of reality and thoroughly engaged by his musings regarding the way in which his century-and-a-half old design managed to maifest itself in modern American society. Anyone that enjoyed this or any other of Zinn's works may especially appreciate The Future of History, in which he candidly discussed his perspectives on various issues ranging from the Death Penalty to Noam Chomsky along with some consideration of a few of his other works. Both are great books, as one might expect from this author.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2002
ZInn is an extrordinary researcher/writer. One cannot merely breeze thru his work, along the way past the prologue, he/she gets absorbed - becomes part of the history.
in marx in soho - zinn takes a somewhat fictional attempt at bringing out Marx in a contemporary society. The monologue is short enough to breeze thru on an hour bus ride - that's how i read it.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 1999
Zinn does a terriffic job of capturing the true essence of what Marx is all about. He tells the story of Marx's life and thoughts without boring you. He even makes it seem fun with his always present sense of humor. A must for any lefties out there.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2002
In the introduction to "Marx in Soho," Howard Zinn says that he "wrote the play at a time when the collapse of the Soviet Union brought an almost universal exultation in the mainstream press and among political leaders: not only was Marxism gone, but the ideas of Marxism were discredited." So Zinn wrote this play in which he sets out to show that "Marx's critique of capitalism remains fundamentally true in our time." In order to do this, Zinn invents a scenario in which Karl Marx is inexplicably returned to the land of the living (and to contemporary New York, no less) to defend his theories, reflect on his life, tell a few stories, and occasionally just talk. If this sounds like a weird way to defend Marxism, it is. But it does allow a passionate and excited (though fictional) Marx to talk to us directly in a more conversational and less academic or inflammatory manner. And while Zinn was bending the rules of time and history, he decided he'd go ahead and submit Marx's idea to an anarchist critique as well, and wrote in an account of a fictional night of drinking with Bakunin. This allows for what Zinn calls "a dialectic of opposing viewpoints," but interestingly so in a one-man play. The play humanizes Marx a little by spending time on Marx's family relationships.
Stylistically speaking, this play clearly has its weaknesses. A lack of interaction (there's only one character!) makes the dialogue the only show in town, so to speak, and thus puts a lot of weight on not-too-strong shoulders (Zinn's dialogue writing didn't wow me). And there are some really awkward stabs at humor. Those things said, I only read the play, and maybe I'd be surprised at how well this comes off in the hands of the right director. But what this play does succeed in doing is offering a succinct and engaging summary and interpretation of the writings and ideas of Karl Marx, and encourages further reading (even pointing the reader in the right direction at the end of the script). Myself, after finishing this I marched straight to the bookstore and picked up "The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts," which I'd have to say I've gotten a lot out of and, dare I say it, even enjoyed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2007
Marx in Soho is one of the best plays that has been written. It is a fascinating account of Marx's life in Soho, seen through Marx's eyes. Conservatives will be shocked by the Marxist themes. Conservatives don't need any more venues to spread their agit-prop. They already control most sources of information (CNN is own by General Electric,etc). After 655,000 Iraqis have died and with 25 million people dying of lack of water every year, it's high time to start thinking about alternatives to capitalism.
The thing I found aggravating about Marx in Soho was it's potrayal of Marx's great work, Das Kapital. The play portrays it as boring and scholarly, a reference book. When I read Das Kapital, I found the second volume as deadly boring. The first volume of Das Kapital is interesting and relevent to today's society. The first three or so chapters are tough, but it gets better later on! I promise!
Overall, Marx in Soho is worth the money. For anyone who wants an interesting background to Marx in Soho, the International Socialist Review has an excellent article by Brian Jones, the man who played Marx in many Marx in Soho productions. [..]

I also noticed several prior reviews talking about Marx as an economic light-weight . I doubt they have ever read Das Kapital, or Wealth of Nations. Comparing the two leads to the inevitable conclusions that Marx just further developed the ideas of Adam Smith. To those who think Marx is an economic lightweight, I wish you would go and read the books you speak of.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2005
I get so tired of these knee-jerk, hackneyed, imbecilic responses to any work dealing with the teachings and philosophy of Karl Marx. Here is my review of Zinn's Marx in Soho: If you're an open minded progressive, pick it up and read it. If you're a right wing neo-fascist nut, don't pick it up and read it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2000
A very good book for those of us who have taken the time to study Marx independently or outside of mainstream academia. For others,it may not be as clear or amusing. However you can't blame the noted Professor for other people's shortcomings. Altogether a fine work - sort of an insider's play. Bravo Professore. Thank You for Marx's resurrection!!
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