Sweet sacrifice

The Blood of Lambs

By Daniel Kinch
Directed by Veronica Garvey
Kairos Theatre Company
Washington Square United Methodist Church
135 W 4th St. (615-6668)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 21)
Review by Julie Halpern

Daniel Kinch's new play, The Blood of Lambs, is a fictionalized account of members of the Plowshares movement, a Christian peace community best known for its actions against nuclear weapons. The play centers on Paul Merton, a charismatic defrocked priest who now runs the Plowshares compound, and Jack Rogers, the FBI's director of counter-terrorism who is determined to infiltrate it.

Three members of the Plowshares group manage to evade security at the Norfolk Naval Air Station in a disarmament action against a nuclear submarine. Rogers's zeal to prosecute them is not entirely business-related. In 1968, Rogers was a young seminary student who participated in a Vietnam war protest organized by Paul Merton. Rogers was one of 17 students expelled from seminary, while Merton seems to have emerged with his credibility intact.

Rogers sends a young agent, Mary Swallow, to entrap Merton and his followers. Swallow finds herself caught up in the lives of the Plowshares members, and when the three women responsible for the Norfolk incident are given overly harsh sentences, not only intercedes on their behalf but is forced to question her own career choice.

Kinch's play is a disturbing commentary on our society's disregard for the dangers of nuclear power and willingness to use it as a weapon, and on our suspicion of anyone who contradicts this mindset. Kinch reminds us that grassroots peace movements are still considered subversive. Kinch's work is a lovingly detailed account, but it is somewhat talky in its efforts to drive home a point, and at times almost too academic.

Director Veronica Garvey provided an environment for her dedicated group of actors to explore fully the complexities of their characters, allowing them to fill the church space with passion.

David Blanton's FBI director proved a cautionary tale of what can happen when a decent man is deprived of his life's purpose. Rick Randig as the compelling Merton revealed every nuance of a devout man troubled by "survivors' guilt." Charlotte Hampden's veteran activist nun was a dignified study of a woman who has devoted herself to the peace movement with no regrets. Stephanie Barton-Farcas was powerful as a young woman sentenced to solitary confinement, and Noelle Dupuy was touching as a young woman leaving behind her husband (an impassioned Ben Roberts) and a baby daughter.

Lindy Roberts as agent Mary Swallow was equal to every challenge of her conflicted character, revealing intelligence and strength throughout. Guy Wilson and Stuart Brooks offered excellent support in a number of smaller roles.

The set was simple and utilized the wide, airy space of the church very well. Martin Grau's slide projections and music of the 1960s brought an earthy realism to the piece. David Szalsa made excellent use of the limited light system, creating many dramatic effects, and Annie Von Neida's costumes were functional and effective.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Julie Halpern