Wallace Shawn's acclaimed monologue was written nearly 20 years ago, but it feels more relevant today than ever. The play follows the moral crisis of a rich traveler who becomes hyper-aware of the world's political and economic inequalities. Played confidently by Peter Crook, he finds himself in a desperate panic on the bathroom floor of a third-world hotel room, paralyzed by the incongruence of his wealthy lifestyle, his desire to love life and enjoy food and the arts, when people around the world are being tortured and killed. It's a common question: How can we enjoy life when so many people can't? Amid an economic crisis, it all feels depressingly apt.It's unfortunate the play's opening was delayed two weeks, but given the inherent difficulties of a monologue this complex, it's easy to get caught up in trying to achieve perfection. Crook powerfully nails the whole thing—though the script has a tendency to ramble and is about 20 minutes too long—and his performance is outstanding. The piece cuts deeply; even though Shawn is likely preaching to the choir, he points a finger at well-to-do Westerners who are quick to justify things to avoid being overcome with guilt. The play never offers any real solutions, and ironically seems to make the point that art won't change things. I disagree. Sure, The Fever isn't literally going to put food on a starving child's plate, but it gets people thinking. It gets people talking. It might even sway a few votes. And in an election year like this, that could mean a big change.
Peter Crook in The Fever.
New City Theater, 1404 18th Ave., 800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $10–$15. 8 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. Ends Oct. 25.