The Abnormal Heart

South African satirist dresses up to politically dress down

Underlining the "mock" in democracy and the "con" in reconciliation, South African writer-performer Pieter-Dirk Uys has returned to New York, "as everybody does—from Fidel Castro to Robert Mugabe." Uys arrives on La MaMa's cabaret stage as Afrikaner icon Evita Bezuidenhout and finishes as Nelson Mandela. Dresses and eyelashes come on and off as Uys does P.W. Botha, Desmond Tutu, and Evita's European sister Bambi, among others. But Uys himself is the real personality behind Foreign Aids, an evening of solo polemics. His activist-eyewitness testimony to AIDS's devastation alternates between outrage and defiant optimism—always tapping his vast reserves of humor.

Uys reminds his "designer democracy" audience that "the virus called apartheid" has now been replaced by an epidemic threatening the world. "The weapons of mass destruction are not in Iraq but in South Africa—and Thabo Mbeki knows exactly where they are," he declares. While castigating those in power—especially the aloof President Mbeki—Uys also portrays the afflicted with unsentimental affection. Foreign Aids offers a healthy dose of indignation and a cry for decency. But Uys charms at least as well as he proselytizes; his pronouncements on everything from colonialism to condom couture make for potentially lifesaving satire.

 
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