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Why more talk of excesses that inadequacies ?

The most outrageous aspects of the show -- its copious nudity, grinding simulations, exceptionally blue language -- tend to overshadow both its social importance and the sweet, rather innocent messages about sex at its core. The revue ran during a time when ideologies from the 1960s sexual revolution were being absorbed into the American mainstream: second-wave feminism and the post-Stonewall gay rights movement both were in full swing.

The sexual revolution, women's liberation and gay activism were all enormously complicated, influential, interconnected movements that meant countless different things to as many different people. Reactions to the changing times ran the gamut from sheer joy on one hand to confusion, anger, and fear on the other.

A friendly, inclusive show like "My People" proved just the ticket for the time. Audiences likely came to the Village Gate to ogle naked actors and guffaw at crude sex jokes, but the show ended up offering much more: surprisingly touching songs and sketches about intimacy, women's rights, gay life, lesbian love, all presented as fun, healthy and just not that big a deal. The show could be enjoyed by those who had unflinchingly embraced the era of sexual liberation, but it proved just as appealing to the many spectators who were tentative -- shyer, conservative, confused -- and yet eager to learn, at a safe distance, what all the fuss was about.

The excesses might have died away, but the 1970s left us with lasting, meaningful change: more rights for women; a better understanding of sexuality; enormous strides in the struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights.

Let My People Come" will be revived this winter for eight Fridays at the Underground, a bar just south of Columbia University. According to the producer, John Forslund, the original lyrics and sketches will be revised and updated

-- Elizabeth L. Wollman, an assistant professor at Baruch College, is the author of "Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City" (Oxford University Press).


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