'Men on Boats' Is An Illusion Of Imagination
Men on Boats is as an incredible failure of imagination even as it touts the imagination as a theatrical force in representing the past. The actual story of John Wesley Powell’s 1869 trip down the Colorado River is stirring and complex, a wild adventure worthy of investigation, critique, celebration, whatever your game. Yet you can’t get to any of that without a real vision or philosophy of history. And a real vision would never reduce the complex Powell and his crew to stick figure goofballs, which is what happens here.
What we get from Men on Boats is an illusion of real engagement and experimentation. It’s selling radical critique, revisionist history, feminist ideals, and theatrical invention, but it’s all packaging without soul or sense or care, just idle gestures to make us feel that something has happened. And nothing has and that’s a shame. A free audience should revolt and demand more.