Monday, November 06, 2006

political theatre, enlightenment

Sunday I spent sitting being enlightened-- mostly in the dark. After a morning singing in the UU choir at a "Spirituality and Mental Health" service, I went to the Nora's matinee of A.R. Gurney's SCREENPLAY at Boston Playwrights Theatre. When Gurney taught at MIT he was active with the College Republicans, and on the advisory board of Playwrights Platform. I saw student and Concord Players productions of his early plays, and knew him slightly; he's Old Money from Buffalo, and chronicles the battered remnants of Noblesse Oblige. I've always liked his work-- a recurring thread has been uptight upright Republican males in love with or married to adventurous bleeding heart liberals. (Sylvia, Far East) Recently -- well, at our age, recently means the last decade or so-- Gurney has turned away from drawing figures of Republicans as Flawed vessels of classic Nobility to satirizing them as power-drunk hypocrites: not particularly successfully (The 4th Wall, Mrs. Farnsworth), but with intelligence and honesty. Now he's finally got it Right! SCREENPLAY is 70 minutes of liberating
laughter. Set in 2015, a few elections down in the Jeb Bush era, it parodies Casablanca and battles cynicism. One of the outrages in the SCREENPLAY plot is that the government has instituted Border Control in reverse, on the model of dictatorships elsewhere. Dissidents not shipped off to a gulag are on a vastly expanded "no fly" list to prevent them from saying or publishing abroad the facts and opinions censored in the USA. I got home to scan the Sunday news roundup and discovered that just such a "security" provision has been tucked undebated into law, ready to be applied when the regime deems it convenient! Holy Toledo! The play was
written and produced in NYC before this outrage, when it would have served as a warning-- would that it was produced on network TV, and seen by millions!

Sunday night I saw Zeitgeist's production of David Hare's STUFF HAPPENS at the BCA-- the Royal National's commission about the run- up to the Iraq war. You've probably heard of this play, but may wonder why it's worth seeing. "We"-- effete educated
Northeasterners-- know all this "stuff"-- unlike most of America, we were paying attention. But STUFF HAPPENS isn't journalism: its model is a Shakespeare history play, or a Greek tragedy. Ironic as it is, it isn't satire. It is the imitation of an action, an arc from decisions to consequence. My friend Rosanna Alfaro brought me the script from London, and I'd read it more than once-- no surprises. Still, I was left shaken and weeping. I'm grateful to David Miller for producing it, and a fine cast for making it work.

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