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BWW Review: CITIZEN BRAIN at Shotgun Players

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Citizen Brain

BWW Review: CITIZEN BRAIN at Shotgun Players

Citizen Brain

Written by John Kornbluth

In Collaboration with Aaron Loeb and Casey Stengl

Performed by John Kornbluth

Directed by Casey Stengl

Shotgun Theatre

October 23, 2020

Josh Kornbluth wants to start a revolution, but it is not the socio-political anti-capitalist one his communist mother Bunny and stepfather Frank drummed into his psyche. The autobiographical monologist extraordinaire brilliantly weaves in his personal anecdotes with an unusual fellowship at a brain clinic to bring us a fascinating didactic on using empathy to heal the wounded world. This live digital performance is Kornbluth at his best; smart, witty dialogue with a social conscience delivered in his rapid fire, stream of conscious patter. Kornbluth draws us into his comic world of hilarious chance meetings, emotional family catharses and brain science in this ultimately optimistic offering.

Its 2016 and Josh is having issues finding his purpose. His mother led him to believe he would lead the communist revolution, but capitalism has won. His mother meets a fellow commie and falls in love, moving to Chicago from NYC. Kornbluth knows it's serious, because what Jew would leave a rent-controlled apartment on the upper West Side? It's a communist fairytale, but Frank develops Alzheimer's. The US also has an ailment- Trump wins the presidency and all sense of decency and empathy seems lost.

Wanting to help, Kornbluth meets Bruce Miller, a famous scientist at UCSF's Memory Center and the Global Brain Health Institute who becomes his mentor. Science is not Josh's forte, but he is fascinated when he learns of an 'empathy circuit", a center in the brain that goes dark in some Alzheimer's patients with Frontotemporal Dementia. A light goes off and Kornbluth as his big epiphany - perhaps the country's empathy circuit has gone dark? He is given a new exercise - take a deep breath, then another and try and imagine how other people are motivated. Find their perspective which is the basis of true empathy.

Kornbluth now has his big revolution - he'll change the world through empathy. One huge snag arises. How do you break through to the Trumpers? This leads Kornbluth to a new epiphany- we all grow up in bubbles, he in his communist doctrines, others in ignorance and bigotry. It a giant battle of the 'circuits". One must go further, and Citizen Brain comes to an astonishing revelation in its satisfying finale.

BWW Review: CITIZEN BRAIN at Shotgun Players
Josh Kornbluth

Citizen Brain is a winner for Kornbluth and Shotgun Players at the Ashby Stage. Perfectly prescient, well crafted and simply genuine, Kornbluth invites us into his personal space while delivering a message that expands our universe and piques our interest in social change. That is his great revolution.

Citizen Brain continues through November 15, 2020. Go to to order digital tickets to the show.

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From This Author Steve Murray