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A passionate, timely play about the fine line between activism and terrorism

Wednesday, Jun 26 2002
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Unlike many of the new plays that regularly pop up around town, E. Hunter Spreen's 14-character foray into the modern worlds of politics and fanaticism is no spring picnic. Or, to say it like a true Californian: The play is heavy, dude. And that is refreshing. Spreen spins the tale of a wealthy real estate developer named Mr. Swift, who's building golf courses for the rich and famous atop natural wetlands. Meanwhile, a young environmental activist is torn between his girlfriend's method of protest (handing out leaflets and staging rallies) and the zealous practices of an old buddy (who's recently spent some time in the slammer for taking things a little too far). At the same time, Swift's spoiled daughter (and her leftist girlfriend) are tormented by the fact that she's a trust-fund baby in a loving family of capitalist crooks. The script is smart and well constructed, not to mention timely, exploring the hypocrisy inherent in any belief system and the fine line that exists between activism and terrorism. While it feels as though the playwright is trying to be objective, it's obvious where his sentiments lie. (Swift may love his wife, but Spreen still paints him as evil incarnate.) The most admirable character in the play -- and perhaps the most important in communicating the complexities of radical politics in a capitalist, democratic society -- is Mitchell Trexler, the cop who mediates the political war between Swift and his aggressors. As Trexler attempts to protect the rights of all involved, he embodies Spreen's thesis: Everyone's right (or, more likely, wrong), but someone's got to be the referee. Director Susannah Martin, with the assistance of a passionate cast, does a fine job orchestrating the nearly three-hour epic; it's a provocative piece of writing, if a tad too long.

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Karen Macklin

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