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A Little Rebellion Now aims to incite anger—just probably not the sort it incited in this reviewer, who would have loved to have spent the last warm day of November enjoying the fall colors and wild geese instead of listening to a series of sermons. The actors in the Venus Theatre’s production, directed by company founder Deborah Lou Randall, often deliver their diatribes while eyeing not the people in their world, but those in the audience. Maybe it’s because L.J. Voss’ characters, by and large, aren’t people: They’re as flat and limited as the “FREE DC!” placards they carry. The main figures are Nanni, an aging Pulitzer Prize–winning African-American poet, and Ron, a young, white, gay PR guy. They’ve hatched a plot to cast off the shackles of District residents—not by the city’s gaining statehood, but by its seceding from the country. After an opening FBI interrogation that signals the plan’s ultimate failure, the play flashes back to show this odd couple enlisting the help of Qwondolyn Smith, your classic up-from-poverty streetwise sistah: As Nanni goes on and on with vague talk about needing her help, you’d think Qwondolyn—who’s really just shown up for a poetry reading—would at least have a question or two, if not a “What the fuck?” but she just nods sagely. Soon we meet her fellow revolutionaries, including a black minister who wants Jesus in everything (need I mention he’s anti-Semitic and homophobic?); a privileged white woman who, of course, eventually pulls a Judas; a Jewish lefty with a Guatemalan-cloth head scarf; and, mercifully briefly, a chirpy, flouncy Latina. (And these are the good guys.) Once Voss has set things in motion, she follows through logically, with an eye to the likely internecine conflicts. She avoids a neat ending, and she shows the inevitable bloodshed that arises from the extremity of the group’s ostensibly nonviolent conflict. But it’s not enough to raise some issues if you’re not going to explore both sides of them, or explore them intelligently, especially if they’re raised by stereotyped spokesmodels (no matter how good the actors) who seem more intent on preaching than interacting. The problems with Rebellion are encapsulated in two early scenes: First, a leader exhorts his true believers to make sure their signs are printed on both sides. (Clearly, Voss did her research on protest organization.) But in the next scene, the company prances and chants—yes, at the audience—with placards that are one-sided. It’s just one of the smaller ways that this production, which purports to be an important examination of a vital issue, fails to bear witness to the very real lives that are harmed by D.C.’s struggles with power. This kind of halfassed, inflammatory “help” D.C. doesn’t need, and neither do theatergoers.—Pamela Murray Winters