Making the Radical Palatable by Jacob Juntunen (review)

New Theatre Quarterly, 33.2

 

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Opening section

The argument of Jacob Juntunen’s Making the Radical Palatable is simple: that mainstream AIDS theatre—unlike the radical performances described by David Román in Acts of Intervention—was able to effect incremental change in the U.S. by diluting the radical politics of AIDS activism and aiming for ‘assimilation’ instead of a ‘restructuring of society’. Juntunen’s book recognizes the limitations of assimilationist projects, and he spends a good deal of time critiquing the flaws in the plays he studies, but Juntunen is invested, finally, in the idea that these theatre pieces actually changed the U.S. imagined community through modest goals and palatable politics.

The bulk of Making the Radical Palatable is four case studies, each on a different play about HIV+ gay men. Each piece will be instantly recognizable to readers—The Normal Heart (1985), Angels in America (1992), Rent (1996), The Laramie Project (2000)—and their familiarity and popularity make the book’s claims appear self-evident...

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