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Marx On The Upper West Side

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Here in New York City, the seat of global finance, Karl Marx received a standing ovation on Saturday night.

In a tribute performance of Howard Zinn's provocative one-man play, "Marx in SoHo", the actor Brian Jones electrified a packed auditorium at New York's Society for Ethical Culture with his portrayal of the 19th-century German philosopher.

Zinn, the radical historian who passed away in January, wrote "Marx in SoHo" in 1999 in response to the popular notion that Marxism had died with the USSR. The play has Marx literally reincarnated -- through "bureaucratic error" -- in 1990's Soho New York, far from the gritty SoHo of London where Marx spent the latter half of his life.

In an hour-long discourse that ranged from the absurdly funny to the disarmingly sweet, Marx discussed his family life, his arguments with fellow revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin and the politics of both his time and ours.

Remarkably, Marx's imaginary critique of 1990s capitalist America -- then in the heady days of the dot-com boom -- is even more potent in our current decade. Reading from a contemporary newspaper, Marx sneered, "'Giant merger of Chemical Bank and Chase Manhattan Bank. Twelve thousand workers will lose jobs: stocks rise.' And they say my ideas are dead!" In the past year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen over 3000 points, while the official unemployment rate over the same period has hovered at 10%.

Brian Jones has been performing "Marx in SoHo" regularly for over a decade.

"Marx was old, German, and Jewish: none of the things I am," said Jones. He recalled a conversation he had with Zinn in 1999 upon being offered the role. "I want to tell you upfront," Jones told the writer, "I'm 25 years old and black." Zinn merely responded, "Well, they called him 'the Moor.'"

One noted anti-capitalist in attendance greatly enjoyed the performance. Filmmaker Michael Moore called it, "the perfect thing for the times in which we live."