By Amy Wittenberger
Directed by Courtney Miller
At Gorilla Tango
Weak acting and lame script makes The Draft crash and burn
Amy Wittenberger’s premise that the USA, after a devastating depression, is so over populated that the citizens vote for the federal government to institute a draft to thin out the population. We meet Tristan (Jon Penick) and Cora (Sophie Amoss), a couple applying for permission to have a child since “Big Brother” now controls every facet of life in 2042 America. These chilling scenes remind us of Orwell’s 1984 but without the menace.
Tristan and Marlon (Kevin Alves) are two government employees charged with facilitating and physically removing (if necessary) those unlucky enough to be selected to be executed since their ‘draft’ number has been selected by a computer program. We witness them almost gently remove a young man who screams and fights (just a little) before being forcibly removed for death. There is a blaze sense to this premise that doesn’t right with truth. Tristan and Marlon come off as average people completely devoid of feeling. They refer to their jobs as something that was voted on–therefore it is alright to find, arrest and execute folks in order to thin out the herd. Their lack of conscious doesn’t ring true and when Tristan’s wife is selected, Tristan’s reaction is tepid reaching only a mild stage of anger. He doesn’t request an explanation from his superiors–he only runs home and gets Cora to pack so they can run away. Cora seems much too resigned to her fate. The couple lacks the degree of rage, fear and heighten emotions that surly most would feel if their number was selected for death. Add the fact that Tristan’s job makes him exempt from being selected. It is never made clear if that is also true of a spouse or sibling–and– Tristan never bothers to find out. Da!
The final scene at Marlon’s house, just before the government agents arrive, show Cora resigned to her fate with Tristan also resigned to her demise. Marlon had to report them since it is his job–and we all voted for the draft. Da!
The last sad scene shows Cora just before her injection with Tristan comforting her. Da! This script never takes into account that most people, especially those in love would research, argue, escape and fight to their last breath before giving in to such arbitrary public policy. History is filled with stories of heroic action against such subtle cruelty.
This production also suffers from blandly unemotional acting especially from Jon Penick who plays Tristan his trouble as if he just got a parking ticket–devoid of emotional rage. The three person masked Greek chorus only added a stylized absurdity that should have been moved toward the main characters. Where is the rage, the fight and the human spirit in these characters? If anyone would as easily give his loved one as Tristan does for the good of society–then we have lost our humanity to Big Brother. Amy Whittenberger’s play denies the power of the human spirit. We are not robots yet. This one hour, one act needs to be much more ‘dramatic’ and emotional.
At Gorilla Tango, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL, www.gorillatango.com, tickets $10, Tuesdays at 8 pm, running time is 60 minutes without intermission, through September 1, 2009