Sunday, April 30, 2017

Building the Wall—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland

Wall of Shame
This topical, Rolling World Premiere, is playing only in select theatres around the world and one of the spots is here at Triangle for a limited run.  It is written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Donald Horn (Triangle’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space in the (aptly name) The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd. (parking lot to the West of the building), through April 27th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-239-5919.

It has been said that if we don’t correct the mistakes from the past, we are doomed to repeat them.  Keep that phrase in mind while watching this play.  Pope Francis, a leader in the Christian world, has said that we should be building bridges between nations, not walls, and forging positive relationships between cultures.  A wise statement, I believe.  It’s unfortunate that the leader of the Free World has chosen just the opposite approach to that sentiment.

And keep in mind, also, there is more than one way to create walls to keep people out besides just physically.  After watching this play, it also put me in mind of a book and film called, “Voyage of the Damned,” in which a Scandinavian liner in the early part of WWII carried a number of Jewish refugees from Germany to seek asylum in other countries and were turned away by everyone.  I also recall “Andersonville,” a prison camp during the Civil War, which was overcrowded and many prisoners died because of starvation, lack of medical attention and exposure.  And, lest we forget, the Nuremberg Trials after WWII.

I draw your attention to the above incidents because they will figure into the plot of this play, but can’t give away specifics because those should be left up to the audience to discover. The story takes place in the very near future, 2019, after Trump’s Wall has been built, in a prison in El Paso, Texas.  A history professor, Gloria (Andrea Whittle Vernae), wants to do a story on a prisoner named, Rick (Gavin Hoffman).  It seems he has been involved in a major incident that has taken on international significance.  He, himself, was raised in a military family with a harsh abusive father and a drunk, and a very religious mother, so his upbringing consisted of learning discipline of body and soul.

He ran away from home as a teenager doing odd jobs, finally joining the army and became an MP, enjoying the rigid life style the military offered him.  Rick is a Republican and was a Trump supporter because he liked the way he was always bursting bubbles of the “high and mighty.”  He eventually got married and his military background was helpful when he secured a job with a detention facility on the border for deportees back to Mexico.  More I cannot tell you as I would be a spoiler.

As far as Gloria, she grew up with the usual struggles of being a black women trying to make a mark for herself, eventually becoming a professor of history at a university.  She hopes, through this interview that, from a historical point of view, we can learn an important lesson from what has happened to Rick and the incident that he was involved with and went to trial for.  Again, can’t tell you more without giving away the end but, trust me, it’s a doozey!

Just recently we had seen major incident in Paris, again another terrorist attack.  Also, there is the use of chemical weapons from Syria’s dictator against his own people.  The relationship with Russia and North Korea is at an all-time low.  But, even more disturbing to me, mainly because the international tensions will always be there no matter what, are the individual, senseless, seemingly random attacks against innocents:  School shootings, the man who shot a stranger in the face and filmed it, the misuse of the social media, the lighting on fire of a customer at a restaurant…all highly disturbing because they can’t be predicted.

I believe it is time for us to be “our brother’s keeper,” to reach out to those in need and, if necessary, tear down the walls that confine us (remember the fate of the Berlin Wall).  It would be nice to think that political figures, who have the influence, could use it for good instead of their own self-interests but, Rick may be right when he says that all politicians lie, it just part of the game.  So it may be up to the Gloria’s of the world to examine history and uncover the fallacies that are stumbling blocks for future generations (and things that have worked, as well).  It is up to parents/teachers to instill values in our children that will embrace diversities and differences in people.  In my opinion, the Arts are a good springboard for that because it instills confidence in Youth, unites them in teamwork and provides a safe haven for them to explore different ideas through their talents.  In short, it teaches one how to think, not just mimic facts.  Be inclusive!

Both actors are super and very believable to their presentations of diverse thoughts.  Although the play may be sedentary, its ideas are explosive so you are never bored.  There is also a cleaver video showing just before the play, exposing some the pitfalls of Trump’s Wall, which we are paying for, by the way, taking away tax money from our local Coast Guard, federal funding for the Arts, many national social services, et. al.  And a special thanks to Don Horn and his forthright policy of always giving us fodder for thought and being inclusive in his attitude toward the larger picture.  His productions are always a revelation, an education, and entertaining, as well.  May He Live Long and Prosper!

I highly recommend this show, but it has a limited run so get tickets soon.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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