Building the Wall
Because of the dangers projecting from the slippery Trump Administration, people in the arts are stepping up to demonstrate what the loony laws they are passing can/will do to our American democracy. Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan has written a commanding screed on one aspect of Trump's thoughtlessness, immigration. In "Building the Wall," being simultaneously produced in theatres throughout the country, and set in 2019, he explores the dangers connected to encouraging the growth of for-profit private prisons in our country to house these "illegals."
In one such prison a former head of another private jail, now under sentence for heinous crimes against humanity, Rick (a potent Bo Foxworth) is interviewed by an academic, Gloria (powerful Judith Moreland), about his legal entanglements set in motion by greedy and unscrupulous business people.
With the government going after the estimated 11,000,000 undocumented people in this country, the logistics of capturing, housing, feeding, attending to illnesses and/or wounds, has overwhelmed the legal system, encouraging the government to open up these concentration camps in under-staffed, under-resourced prisons, which have included major gas chamber deaths.
Gloria, a professor, is writing a book (or possibly only an article) on this one man, Rick, and his travails in trying to stem the misery and murders of these prisoners, guilty of nothing more than trying to find better lives for themselves. Schenkkan's voice is one of horror and rage, with both Rick and Gloria unable to totally fathom what has happened to their America.
The play is not a "balanced" examination of a serious problem; rather, it is an enraged viewpoint of what happens when legal common sense is overwhelmed by emotional turmoil. He posits an incident in Times Square, New York, when a "dirty bomb" has been exploded, poisoning a large square of the City. Obviously, domestic terrorism is blamed, with the finger pointed at many ethnic possibilities, mainly Muslim or Latino. But Schenkkan's fingers are also reversed-pointed towards the desperate Administration, needing a raison d'etre for such unconstitutional actions.
This is one hell of a scary play, topical and theoretically accurate (American history is chock-a-block full of illegal actions, i.e., the 1880s anti-Asian immigrant acts, the 1920s Bolshevik scares, the World War II incarceration of Japanese-Americans, the post-war McCarthy hunt for Commies). While it may not happen, especially if the Trump/Pence administration is impeached and removed from office, it is a strong warning.
Director Michael Michetti, on the postage-sized stage, allows his two actors plenty of time to make their points -- intellectual and emotional -- giving us the opportunity to listen carefully and formulate our own opinions. It is also clearly not on the side of the authoritarian bent of this current government, so defenders of the President will not be happy with it, but for the rest of us, it is a necessary wake-up call to action.
"Building The Wall" plays through June 18 at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles 90029. For tickets or information, call 323-663-1525 or visit www.FountainTheatre.com.