by Michael P. Northey
Young Offenders in association with
Little Wave Productions and Red Glare Productions Equity Co-op
At Beaumont Studios, 315 W. 5th Ave.
To July 2
Tickets $15 at 604-733-3783
In a small town somewhere in Georgia, four men share a jail cell.
They don’t appear to have much in common. Redneck racist Trotter
sniffs ominously around Kamal, an Iranian-American cab driver he
persists in calling Camel. Black Muslim Nazeer loathes Trotter (“my
white inbred brother”) from hard time they’ve done together
in the Pen. Nazeer declares racial and political solidarity with
Kamal who wants none of it, insisting he’s pro-Bush, a loyal
American, in jail only by mistake. All three alternately admire
Seaver, the former star quarterback lying on the cell floor covered
in his own vomit, and despise him for having had sex with a 13-year-old.
As the tough-ass female guard pulls them out one by one for some
old fashioned Southern vigilante justice, it becomes clear that
something special is going on. “A lot of people around here
ain’t too happy with your kind,” she snarls at Kamal.
But this transcends racial profiling.
These ain’t no A-rab terrorists and this ain’t Gitmo.
It’s the heart of Bush country on the anniversary of 9/11
and no one has immunity. White, brown and black, they’re all
on the List. Welcome to the new Amerikkka, suckas.
Michael P. Northey’s new play is ripped straight from the
headlines, you might say if you were tempted to use clichés.
And lord, lord, Rockets Red Glare
is filled with them, contrivances presented in the theatrical equivalent
of headlines, big and loud, in capital letters.
Clichés are rooted in truth. Like many of us, Northey is
clearly appalled by what he has seen of our star-spangled neighbour’s
paranoid human rights abuses in the name of protecting liberty.
And I have to admire his putting his art where his heart is.
But he might be best served by taking the classic advice to young
writers: write what you know. It’s hard for a Canadian to
convincingly imagine himself deep inside the American nightmare.
So much of this play seems derivative of media images and American
character types. And under Northey’s direction, the play takes
on some of the hysteria it wants to criticize. After the guard reveals
that her brother was killed in Iraq, we move from high melodrama
into Gothic psycho territory.
The very good acting would be more effective if Northey turned
down the volume and intensity a couple of notches. David Richmond-Peck
takes high honours as Trotter, revealing the sad truth of his white
trash life. Despite excessive yelling, Rick Dobran provides a convincingly
bewildered Kamal. Donny Lucas’ Nazeer is most effective when
most cerebral, and Mike Dopud nicely underplays Seaver, the fallen
idol. Irene Karas does what she can with the stereotypes and extremes
of the guard.
John R. Taylor’s prison set looks and sounds authentic.
Northey’s script rarely does.