Regional Reviews: Boston
As the opening offering in the second year of the Next Rep Black Box Festival, Muckrakers meets and exceeds the qualifications as an "adventurous, intimate play," as described by Artistic Director Jim Petosa. With subject matter that is virtually "ripped from the headlines," Dohrn dramatizes a Julian Assange-like leak of classified information by a journalist (Wheeler) and his encounter with an activist/anarchist blogger (Allen) who believes in total transparency, both political and personal. Following his speech at an event hosted by her organization, Stephen and Mira spend an evening together in her Brooklyn apartment. They engage in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game as he does his best to get into her pants, while she tries to download the contents of his phone and access the details he has not yet made public.
There are many layers and twists in the story that O'Leary unveils with precise timing to build the suspense. Occasionally, the playwright drops a brief hint, but we can't be sure whether it is a red herring or foreshadowing. As if the storyline alone is not enough to quicken your pulse, there is a brief love scene in which Wheeler lowers his briefs and Allen bares it all (why is that gender bias so often the case?), but their physical openness is in stark contrast to all that they are hiding from each other.
In order to protect the secrets, it is imperative that the reviewer limits the release of specifics and, hopefully, leaves the reader wanting more. It won't spoil anything to rave about the strength of the performances and the ability of both actors to reel us in, making it difficult to decide which side to take. Obviously, Dohrn deserves credit for evenhandedly representing divergent positions without tipping his hand as to his own sympathies. (It bears revealing that he is the son of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, one-time Weather Underground activists and long-time fugitives from justice.) Instead, the playwright raises a plethora of complex questions that cannot be answered in a 75-minute one-act play. Muckrakers asks a lot from the audience and you'll take this one home with you.
Muckrakers, performances through February 1, 2015, part of the Next Rep Black Box Festival at New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA; Box Office 617-923-8487 or www.newrep.org.
Written by Zayd Dohrn, Directed by Bridget Kathleen O'Leary; Scenic & Properties Designer, Alexander Grover; Costume Designer, Tyler Kinney; Lighting Designer, Christopher Brusberg; Sound Designer, Edward Young; Stage Manager, Michele Teevan
Cast: Esme Allen, Lewis D. Wheeler
- Nancy Grossman