At the Theatre – The Accidental Activist

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Josh Kornbluths senior thesis was late. Twenty-eight years late to be exact.

The would-be 1980 Princeton graduate simply never found a topic that he was passionate enough about, but that changed after the U.S. Presidential election of 2004, when, as Kornbluth says, My guy didnt win.

The comedic monologist has turned his frustrations into Citizen Josh, a hilarious look at Kornbluths venture into political activism, now playing at Arena Stage in Crystal City.

Were getting very close to the election and its getting ugly, Kornbluth says as he traces his left-wing Jewish roots in New York City to his current, and still left-wing, life in Berkeley, California.

Troubled by the health of American democracy, Kornbluth came to the conclusion that perhaps simply voting every four years was just not enough, so we follow the media host on his comical journey of political enlightenment.

Kornbluth, who last performed at Arena Stage in Love & Taxes, examines the fundamentals of democracy through a series of entertaining and touching autobiographical vignettes that trace his childhood and early career at a series of alternative newspapers in New York, through his undergraduate years at Princeton, and finally to his life in Berkeley.

Through his one-man show, Kornbluth colorfully describes his transformation from passive citizen to political activist, beginning with a neighborhood dispute over deteriorating playground equipment and culminating in a meeting with Al Gore.

An especially moving story about the premature birth of his younger brother Sam provides the underlying theme of the show as well as Kornbluths motto in life, Be quixotic!

Through his examination of the word (meaning foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals), Kornbluth connects a web of tales poignantly illustrating his personal quest to become a better citizen while treating his political adversaries with respect.

That respect comes through, as Kornbluth reigns in his obvious political leanings in order to spark intelligent discourse. The result is an overwhelming success.

Kornbluth has an unassuming presence, articulating his adventures with the timing of a stand-up comic masterfully combined with theatrical flair. He engages the audience without preaching or offending, not an easy task when it comes to political convictions.

Citizen Josh is the latest of several collaborations between Kornbluth and Arenas Associate Artistic Director David Dower, who presents the results of an audience questionnaire after each performance with the same comedic timing and wit as Kornbluth.

To collaborate with David is one of the great joys of my life, Kornbluth told The Alexandria Times after the opening night performance. Working with people here at Arena, I have never had this level of support and care put into a piece of mine.

In addition to enlightening audiences and sparking intelligent political debate, Citizen Josh serves yet another purpose it also happens to be Kornbluths long-overdue thesis, and Dower proudly reveals that Kornbluth is now in possession of that elusive degree from Princeton.

Without a doubt, this has truly been an incredibly satisfying experience for me, said Kornbluth.

For the politically astute audience, it is incredibly satisfying as well and a must-see for red and blue voters alike.

Citizen Josh is playing now through October 26 at Arena Stage in Crystal City, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. For more information, visit www.arenastage.org or call 202-488-3300.

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