Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Little Brother

Based on the novel by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother
Little Brother

Adapted for the stage by William Massolia

Directed by Dorothy Milne

Produced by Griffin Theatre


At Athenaeum Theatre

Promising cautionary tale fizzles with deus ex machina ending

You would think that novelist Cory Doctorow, (author of Little Brother) after his extensive and clever detailed techno references, would get basic facts on how the US government works–specifically that the federal government dominates and a state governor can’t remove a federal government department from his state at gun point.  But since Doctorow could not figure out how to end his promising tale, the play suffers a false ending. Too bad since this modern version of Orwell’s 1984 vividly outlines the potential of technology to inhibit our personal liberty and freedoms–all in the name of security.

Mike Harvey
Mike Harvey

We meet Marcus Yallow (Mike Harvey), a charming  seventeen year old techno-geek with a passionate sense of rebellion from the government’s attempts to remove his personal freedoms. Know as “win5tOn,” Marcus and his small band of geeks figure out how to thwart the Department of Homeland Security’s tech crackdown on US citizens in San Francisco after a terrorist attack on the Oakland Bay Bridge and the Bart transit system.  After the attack, Marcus and his friends are arrested and held for several days by DHS as the city quickly becomes a police state. These scenes and the DHS’s use of high tech to spy and limit the privacy of citizens are vividly presented. This is scary stuff since most of the  technology referred to already exists. Just look at all the cameras being installed at Chicago intersections to catch red light violators.

little brother by cory doctorow

Marcus’ techno wizardry and Chicago newbie Mike Harvey’s infectious charm makes Marcus the teenage geek hero as he outwits the DHS at every turn. I liked the techo references and I got the message about the potential of an extreme reaction if we are attacked again–BUT–Little Brother doesn’t take into account the change in leadership in Washington. I doubt that Obama would sanction such an attack on our freedoms.

Little Brother is a smart cautionary tale worth seeing since it outlines what could happen if we let big brother over react to a terrorist attack. The show also demonstrates some of the interrogation techniques still being used by our government in the name of security. The lesson of overreaction is a chilling reality. Mike Harvey is a talented actor who leads a fine cast.


Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, call 800-982-2787,, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through July 19, 2009

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