Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
The subject matter of this play, an intense look at the underlying causes of racism, is a fascinating one, but while the play has its strengths, it is imperfectly realized. The character of Danny, the Jewish lawyer, here played by Drew Hirshfield, is written at full intensity, while his client Mike is rather withdrawn through much of the first half of the play. The dramatic underpinnings of why Danny is so vested in what he is doing don't fully convince me. This is partly due to direction by Kate Alexander that fails to remain fully in focus, and partly to the script. The interplay between the characters is well written, but contrasting intensity levels left me baffled at times. Gow sets the play against the Canadian justice system, which is very different from that in the United States. Large sections regarding rehabilitation services might confuse U.S. audiences since we have just about given up this concept.
Drew Hirshfield is convincing as Danny. Coached in Jewish matters by local rabbi, Howard Simon adds luster to his performance. More varied emotional levels would be an improvement, that problem lies mostly within David Gow's script. On the other hand, Mike may not be an ideal role for Tom Patterson. He has in the past played young men from good upbringings for FST, and quite successfully. He has a handsome face and bearing, totally wrong for Mike, who has gone horribly wrong. He is never able to show the undercurrents of belief in racist ideology. Only after the racism retakes control of Mike does Mr. Patterson's connection with the character strengthen. In the play's most incisive moment, when Mike pleads to the court for leniency, he offers a hard, frightening look at neo-Nazism and white supremacist belief systems and the root causes that lead young men down these pathsat this point, Patterson becomes chilling enough to stand in for this man.
Today's political climate seems to be exacerbating the racial climate when in years past it seemed to be improving. This play, imperfect as it is, examines an explosive issue and offers at least one aha moment that enlightens.
Cherry Docs, through March 15, 2019, at Florida Studio Theatre, Bowne's Lab Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.