by Michael P. Northey
Young Offenders in association with
Little Wave Productions and Red Glare Productions Equity Co-op
At Beaumont Studios, 315 W. 5th Ave.
To July 2
Tickets $15 at 604-733-3783

In a small town somewhere in Georgia, four men share a jail cell. They don’t appear to have much in common. Redneck racist Trotter sniffs ominously around Kamal, an Iranian-American cab driver he persists in calling Camel. Black Muslim Nazeer loathes Trotter (“my white inbred brother”) from hard time they’ve done together in the Pen. Nazeer declares racial and political solidarity with Kamal who wants none of it, insisting he’s pro-Bush, a loyal American, in jail only by mistake. All three alternately admire Seaver, the former star quarterback lying on the cell floor covered in his own vomit, and despise him for having had sex with a 13-year-old.

As the tough-ass female guard pulls them out one by one for some old fashioned Southern vigilante justice, it becomes clear that something special is going on. “A lot of people around here ain’t too happy with your kind,” she snarls at Kamal. But this transcends racial profiling.

These ain’t no A-rab terrorists and this ain’t Gitmo. It’s the heart of Bush country on the anniversary of 9/11 and no one has immunity. White, brown and black, they’re all on the List. Welcome to the new Amerikkka, suckas.

Michael P. Northey’s new play is ripped straight from the headlines, you might say if you were tempted to use clichés. And lord, lord, Rockets Red Glare is filled with them, contrivances presented in the theatrical equivalent of headlines, big and loud, in capital letters.

Clichés are rooted in truth. Like many of us, Northey is clearly appalled by what he has seen of our star-spangled neighbour’s paranoid human rights abuses in the name of protecting liberty. And I have to admire his putting his art where his heart is.

But he might be best served by taking the classic advice to young writers: write what you know. It’s hard for a Canadian to convincingly imagine himself deep inside the American nightmare. So much of this play seems derivative of media images and American character types. And under Northey’s direction, the play takes on some of the hysteria it wants to criticize. After the guard reveals that her brother was killed in Iraq, we move from high melodrama into Gothic psycho territory.

The very good acting would be more effective if Northey turned down the volume and intensity a couple of notches. David Richmond-Peck takes high honours as Trotter, revealing the sad truth of his white trash life. Despite excessive yelling, Rick Dobran provides a convincingly bewildered Kamal. Donny Lucas’ Nazeer is most effective when most cerebral, and Mike Dopud nicely underplays Seaver, the fallen idol. Irene Karas does what she can with the stereotypes and extremes of the guard.

John R. Taylor’s prison set looks and sounds authentic. Northey’s script rarely does.

Jerry Wasserman



last updated: Saturday, July 2, 2005 12:08 PM
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