I saw two plays yesterday that were as different as night and day, yet identical in their attention to current events outside the theatre. Let me try to get a few ideas and reactions down before I see yet another play later tonight. As I do, however, let me say that anyone interested in good theater should try to see both of these excellent, excellently produced and acted plays.
"Time Stands Still" is a neatly-constructed well-made-play by veteran Donald Margolies examining the lives and conflicts of photographers and reporters who wade into the very dangerous center of wars and disasters intending to bring back a vision of truth. Two of the characters (played by Laura Latreille and Barlow Adamson) --- based on real people --- a war-photographer and her print-reporter husband, cannot abandon their job, even after explosions and brutal days as hostages. She opens the show with broken bones barely healed, he suffers from a second-thoughts writer's block. They are contrasted with an older news-magazine editor (Jeremiah kissel) and his new, much younger fiancee (Erica Spyes) who live state-side and marvel at their friends' single-minded dedication, but find work and fulfillment in marriage and children.
At some point, each one of these pairs erupts into blazing argument defending their attitudes and differences. The passion on all sides is electrifying, and Director Scott Edmiston sees to it that the human conflict is always in doubt.
If Margulies lets his audience sit outside the fourth wall watching a reasoned argument, Emily Mann in "Execution of Justice" throws her audience headlong into the center of current events --- in this case the 1979 trial in San Francisco of Dan White, who shot both Mayor George Moscone and the gay-activist Board of Supervisors member Harvey Milk, after being told they would not reinstate him as a Supervisor after he reconsidered his resignation.
Director Elaine Vaan Hogue has put the witness-stand on the stage of the BCA's Wimberly Theatre, but surrounded it with seats for spectators, and sent actors into the auditorium as well as projecting pictures and films on booth sides of the action. In addition to Ian Geers playing White and Hayley Sherwood playing his wife, sixteen other actors play some 41 named roles, often with only a single sentence all over the room, which multiply the feeling of chaos and illuminate the explosive tensions inside and outside the courtroom, as well as the riots that erupted when a verdict as handed down.
Emily Mann wove this electrifying tapestry out of direct transcripts of interrogations and testimony and direct quotes outside the courtroom. The action jumps every second to different places and different times. The result lets every audience member experience the trial, and then decide what those facts prove.
These two contrasting plays show totally different theatrical approaches to the news of today --- and in each case, theatrical reality brings ideas vibrantly to life.
Catch them if you can!
Break a leg all!