“Red Tape Theatre’s artistic leadership has a knack for creating relevant works that offer important critiques on the sociopolitical issues of today. This latest production continues that pattern by dusting off source material about human suffering that accompanied the world’s first tango with industrialized trench warfare — just as we’re grappling with new concepts of violence at the hands of weaponized trade, immigration and environmental policy.
With a terrific, diverse ensemble cast led by the electric Elena Victoria Feliz in the role of Paul, this rendering of Mr. Remarque’s novel leverages music, rhythm and special effects to humanize a band of German soldiers on the wrong side of history. Familiar pop tunes with themes of war, movement and strategically placed smoke dissolve nationality and “siderism” into a universal parable of fear, longing and inevitability. Agnostic of time or place, the troops dance the haka to communicate wild male aggression, and it works. We understand that when so much is unknown, it’s psychologically safest to keep moving, to stay muted and guarded.
So much of this understanding is communicated through Ms. Feliz’s eyes. It could be easy to dismiss her mostly silent role, but the performance and her character are the production’s moral, emotional and physical center. Paul is the omniscient narrator who knows how the story of the 2nd Company ends, even as he’s living it, stoically following through every chapter with empathy and tremendous sadness. This earns Paul the respect of his platoon and solidifies for the audience that Paul’s is the balanced perspective through which we should collectively process the experiences we see onstage. Ms. Feliz achieves this narrative feat using very little more than eye contact with her fellow actors, the folks in the cheap seats, even with the sound engineer. This young actress is going to do big things.”
“Just three days ago, writer James Fallows of The Atlantic published the thought provoking, If Trump Were an Airline Pilot. The piece wrestles with a historical paradigm when it comes to professional medical or mental health speculation regarding a public figure: if you haven’t examined them personally, don’t talk. Then of course, if one has treated a person of repute for a physical or emotional condition, HIPAA and confidentiality laws forbid discussing it.
Essentially health care providers are banned – by social constraint and rule of law – from offering testimony in the court of public opinion about a person’s fitness for office. Fallows challenges this assumption however and asks if the rules, at least in Trump’s case, pose a greater threat to the public good than a frank discussion about the President’s evident, erratic impulses. He reports on experts who are breaking with tradition to take their professional concerns about Donald Trump to the people.”
“What narratives is the United States, under the ‘leadership’ of Donald Trump generating now? Separated immigrant families, children in cages, unarmed people killed by a militarized police force, a proliferation of weapons that turns any lone gunman with hurt feelings into an instant mass murderer. The policies and products of an administration that leverages congressionally unchecked power to make miserable the lives of the many, in service of one very large, frail, white male ego.
If she hadn’t left us this past Monday morning, how would Morrison have written about the latest 2019 appearance of the ‘dark, psychic force,’ that Marianne Williamson identified as underpinning America’s failure as a cultural melting pot?
While we’ll never have new words from the Nobel Laureate, we can be grateful for those she left to help us confront the racism corroding our national soul. In December 1993, she warned a Stockholm, Sweden audience of ‘infantile heads of state’ who speak only ‘to those who obey, or in order to force obedience…Oppressive language does more than represent violence…It is violence.’
We still have an opportunity to do as Morrison did, to move the lives of the asylum-seeking immigrant, the impoverished, imprisoned and powerless away from the margins and toward the center of the story of Donald Trump’s cruel, racist America. Though we’ve collectively lacked the author’s urgent persistence to tell the truth about who we are, it’s never too late to start.”