Like going hunting with Dick Cheney


Patriot Acts


Written by Marshall Jones III
Directed by Rico Rosetti
Emerge Theater Company (

Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival for showtimes)
WorkShop Theater Mainstage,
312 W. 36th St., 4th Floor
Equity showcase (closed
August 3, 2007)
Review by Byrne Harrison


When the ads read, "Loss of civil liberties . . . ID Fraud . . . Terrorism – ready to laugh?" it's safe to assume that you're in for an evening of rollicking political satire. In the case of Marshall Jones' Patriot Acts, that assumption never bears fruit.

The play starts off promisingly. In the first act, called 'Arrested,' the main characters are a pair of bumbling FBI agents, Stan (Nick Farco) and Oliver (Andrew Kaempfer), their names hinting at the humor of Laurel and Hardy which is hopefully to follow. Their Chief (Paul O'Connor) is a propaganda spouting Dubya-wannabe, complete with a bit of Texas drawl, who berates the pair for not making enough arrests under the Patriot Act. But that's about as far as the humor goes. What follows is a series of vignettes, purportedly based on actual situations, in which Stan and Oliver abuse and humiliate a reporter, cell phone vendor, painter, and teacher. They also comfort a mother whose daughter is missing by blithely informing her that they can pull her daughter's e-mail records and those of anyone who was chatting with her without warrants. While these vignettes are informational and demonstrate the gross abuses possible under the Patriot Act, they aren't particularly dramatic, and are very rarely funny.

The second act, entitled 'Poker Face,' is an absolute enigma. It, too, starts out well. Karina (Sarah Koestner) and Beena (Shanti Wesley) are roommates. Karina is about to play a high-stakes poker game; Beena is a promising film student making a documentary about it. That is until agents Trudeau (Paul O'Connor) and Munge (Deidre Da Silva) come barging in and accuse Beena of supporting terrorists. It seems that 'Poker Face' will be a less didactic, more dramatic, version of the vignettes from 'Arrested.'  Instead, it devolves into a juvenile play about Karina's Ex (Nathan Robinson) trying to get revenge on her for breaking up with him, and Beena and Karina's attempts to get revenge on him. Only at the very end of the piece is any attempt made to tie 'Poker Face' to 'Arrested,' and it is done in a clumsy and contrived manner.

Clumsy also describes the staging for Patriot Acts. Unlike most of the productions in the Midtown International Festival, designer Jen Price Flick eschews the bare-bones look, choosing to use large and unwieldy pieces of furniture. This makes the scene changes entirely too long and interrupts the flow of an already jerky play. Director Rico Rosetti could have made a bad show a little more bearable by scaling things down and trusting the audience to use their imaginations.

Patriot Acts does highlight some truly disturbing things about life in today's America. Unfortunately, it doesn't do so in a way that entertains or interests.

Box Score:


Writing: 0

Directing: 0

Acting: 1

Sets: 0

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1


Copyright 2007 Byrne Harrison


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