Off Broadway: Swapping Obscenities

Liberty deteriorating into license has become a contemporary abuse in several arts. In Michael McClure's The Beard, which opened at a Greenwich Village theater last week, two characters made up as Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid swap repetitive obscenities for 60 minutes. To what end? If The Beard means to scandalize, it fails: its words are now numbingly familiar onstage. If it means to extol freedom of speech, it falters: its four-letter words express so little that they produce constraint of speech.

Why Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid are the heroine...

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