Sunday, February 8, 2009

Theatre Review: TERRE HAUTE

Theatre Review: Terre Haute

59E59 Theatre
New York City

The Execution of Timothy McVeigh and the Involvement of Gore Vidal

by Eric Green

Timothy McVeigh was executed by the federal government in 2001, at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, for the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995. The cold blooded murder by McVeigh of 168 people and the injuring of another 500, to this day, is an act of terrorism by an ultra right winger that is hardly ever mentioned when terrorism is discussed. Many children died because there was a day care center in the Federal Building for workers in that building.

Thanks to Ohio borne Edmund White this whole episode in US history and in literary life will not be filed away any too soon. And, that is a good thing.

White developed the play at the Sundance Festival in Utah. But, he took it to be first produced in Edinburgh, Scotland and then to London.

Now, it has been produced at the 59E59 venue in New York City.

Real or Not Real?

White's play has the eerie feel of being an actual, documentary encounter between Gore Vidal and Timothy McVeigh. But, in fact, they never actually met, in person. Vidal did correspond with McVeigh before his execution, but unlike the play says, he never met him in person.

So, using a playwright's prerogative, White takes the several articles written by Vidal about McVeigh for The Nation and Vanity Fair magazines and constructs his play. The letters exchanged between the two were never made public.

In the New York Production at the state of art 59e59 theatre, the play ran for just 4 weeks. It received very good reviews, especially from the NY Times. Who knows it might get extended, it certainly deserves it.

The two-character play had Nick Westrate playing Harrison the character of McVeigh; and Peter Eyre playing the character of James Brevoort the character of Vidal. They both did excellent jobs.

The direction by George Perrin kept the pace at a good clip; with the play being 80 minutes without any interruptions. That was a good decision.

This is a play that can easily be produced in regional and local theatres across the country; including campuses of all sizes. And, it should be..

The power of White's depiction of McVeigh and his obsession with right wing/cult events is a theme that would and should resonate well across the country. White's depiction of Vidal's articles and his humanity is very important.

Objectively dealing with ultra right wing elements in our country is very important. By simply demonizing them they become something unreal….and, as we know, all too well, those ultra wingers are anything but unreal. They may be pushed to go under the rocks, but with our country and countries around the world facing unprecedented economic crisis with unprecedented unemployment, the breeding ground for the ultra right is before us.

Thank you Edmund White.