You might not know the man, but Dalton Trumbo’s work speaks for itself. He wrote or assisted on numerous films including 1960's Spartacus (featuring Kirk Douglas), and 1973's Papillon (with Steve McQueen) to name a couple. To celebrate his life and career, his son Christopher collected letters and memoirs and conceived Trumbo, an opus that gets its Florida premiere at GableStage.
Producing artistic director Joseph Adler, steps onto the stage after two decades away from the spotlight to portray the pioneer screenwriter. Assisting him is Bruce Miller as the narrator. The play begins with Trumbo’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947. At that time, he had become a member of the “Hollywood Ten”, a group of men who declined to answer if they had ever been members of the Communist Party. For this, Trumbo was removed from his post at MGM, incarcerated for a year, and blacklisted.
After testimony, Adler reads letters that Trumbo wrote to his compatriots and adversaries while imprisoned and released. He also wrote letters to his son to show him that his father wasn’t a pariah, but a person who stood up for his beliefs. While blacklisted, Trumbo continued to work, writing under numerous pseudonyms. He won two Oscars for his work. He passed away in 1976.
Joseph Adler portrays Dalton Trumbo as a staunch believer in creative and political freedom, but the production comes off more as a staged reading. Adler takes a more subtle approach. He reads each letter as an avid orator, therefore hiding his rust. Adler, who also directed Trumbo, leaves the acting to Bruce Miller. Miller narrates as Trumbo’s devoted son, Christopher, and also plays different characters such as the HUAC inquisitor.
Tim Connelly’s set is draped with banners of Dalton Trumbo’s work, including a desk in the middle of the stage where Adler does most of his reading. Jeff Quinn’s lighting is well done, including shadows of a jail cell. Dennis Diamond provides us with sound and video bytes of the period in which HUAC was dominant.
More history lesson than a play, Trumbo gives us an insight into a man who, despite being ostracized, continued to work without compromise. Trumbo is timely because patriotism is again being scrutinized now as it was then.
WPLG-TV Political reporter Michael Putney will succeed Joseph Adler on September 2nd. No matter who plays Dalton Trumbo, this is a piece that educates and inspires.
Trumbo will play until September 12th at GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Avenue in Coral Gables. For tickets, please call (305) 445-1119 or www.gablestage.org.
GABLESTAGE - Trumbo
Featuring: Joseph Adler, Michael Putney (9/2-12), and
Stage Manager: Michael Carroll
Set Design: Tim Connelly
Directed by Joseph Adler
-- Kevin Johnson