God's Country

By Steven Dietz
Directed by Stephen Roylance
Lightning Strikes Theatre Company
Synchronicity Space
212 W. 29th St. (875-0346)
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

Hitler bent the Cross one way, and some Americans who still revere him are twisting it another. People tend to ignore these right-wing mischief-makers until they bomb our children or burn their own to death. The ensemble who produced this work do the nation a service by painting a truer picture of the lunatic fringe than audiences are used to seeing or care to look at.

The play, which portrays a trial of the murderers of Alan Berg, a Jewish Denver talk-show host, shows many things: blood covenants, a modern crucifixion, or how a group (called ``The Order'') of inept robbers conducted the most successful crime spree in U.S. history.

Didactic theatre can be boring. This production was far from boring (although it would benefit from cutting some of the murkier and more insane episodes). There's too much neo-Nazi pageantry and Euripidean poetry to be boring; too much decapitation, terrorism, murder, mayhem, oaths, and ceremonies.

In fact, the director conjured up some hair-raising theatricality of the sort rarely delivered Off-Off-Broadway. He disciplined his excellent cast in some very complicated maneuvers. Those actors who stood out did so only because their roles propelled them to the center. For example, Bunky Hubbard, an eighth-grader, gave a startlingly fine performance as ``The Boy.'' Fred Harlow found a variety of wonderful things to do in the eight roles he portrayed. Victor Truro, as a prosecutor, should be immediately recruited by any prominent law firm. And the perfectly Aryan-looking Michael Moon amused the audience with the creativity of his widely varied characterizations. But just as worthy of praise were Rochelle Stempel, John McDermott, Peter Palazzo (who also did the well-executed set), D. L. Shroder, Atli Kendall, Lou Kylis, Marie Dame, Jeff Buckner, Dennis Kyriakos, and Kate Flatland.

Jean Brookman's costumes were fine, but she should make sure the trousers of the actors are better pressed (except for Mr. Kendall's), for they smudged the otherwise fine pictures the scenes presented.

Some technical gremlins crept into the opening-night performance, affecting the sound by Patrick McCaffrey and the complicated lights by David Macfarlane--whose color effects were visibly enhanced and made more credible by the finely tuned, sincere emotional pitch of the performers.

The play took advantage of the power of the stage in ways that can't be done in film, and it is not unfair to the movement it portrays. It does not cloak that movement in Southern dialects featuring rabble-rousing nut cases, for example. Instead the actors gave their all to fairly portray the characters. In so doing they brought forth the intelligence, heroism, and passionate intensity of a burgeoning political movement of true believers whom many Americans would like to laugh at or ignore--to their nation's peril.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting 2/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger

Return to Home Page