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    2008-2009 reviews:
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    Slaves of Starbucks

    Vacant latte

    "Slaves of Starbucks" satirizes the emptiness of corporatized American existence with monologues about loudmouth tourists and unspeakable acts in the shopping mall food court.


    "No," says your Roman tour guide, trying to be patient, "even if I tell the Vatican that you have come all the way from Milwaukee, you can still not see the pope."

    Written and performed by: Peter Aterman.
    Directed by: Christopher Caines.
    This guide is one of the characters in Peter Aterman's one-man collection "Slaves of Starbucks," one who clearly has never gotten used to his American guests' way of looking at things. When he boasts that St. Peter's is the world's largest religious building, one tourist notes that they've got a bigger one in Texas. "Okay," answers the guide, politely, "then this is the largest religious building that is not also a football stadium."

    Aterman's 13 vignettes focus on the absurdity of American life, from the happy-go-lucky '60s to the corporatized present. There are some misses but plenty of hits in the program, starting with a strange and disconcerting performance of the Kennedy inaugural address. In a perfect JFK accent, Aterman recites a slightly altered version of the famed "Ask not what your country can do for you" speech while hula-hooping, doing the crawl and playing with a slinky. It holds up our sugar-coated '60s nostalgia against the sometimes brutal, sometimes banal lives we've led as Americans these past 40 years.

    Worth the whole price of admission is a jolting monologue about a man who solemnly states, "I don't like shopping malls." As it turns out, he has plenty of reason not to like shopping malls. Without giving too much away, I would just note that unspeakable acts of sadism become darkly comic when carried out in front of the Orange Julius store.

    "Slaves of Starbucks" is about an America in which we've not only been surrounded by corporate symbols but learned to eagerly build our lives around them. Without preaching or lecturing, Aterman (a U.S.-educated Canadian, actually) gently roasts our country's way of life and then gives it a medium grind.

    MAY 24, 2001

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