Monday, July 24, 2017


Victoria Platt and Bo Foxworth
Photo by Ed Krieger
Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan directed to a fine point by Michael Michetti, examines a not so brave new world. New to the role of Gloria, Victoria Platt plays a university history professor  who is allowed access to Rick (Bo Foxworth), a former supervisor in a private prison,  in an attempt to discover how someone evolves from a somewhat average guy into an agent of the unthinkable.

It's 2019.  The United States has become outlandishly authoritarian under the leadership of the 45th president.  The story is a polemic with fear at its foundation.  That's a good thing in some ways: certainly it's a wake up call.  The 'call to arms' that we all should have heard by now is one that half of the population of the United States stll thinks is uncalled for harassment of the president.  A 'dirty bomb' has exploded in Times Square. The subsequent follow up of impeachment seems too little too late.  The snow balling effect of 'repatriation' of immigrants that Schenkkan proposes in the play in direct parallel to Hitler's eradication of Germany's cultural issues is not far from the fears that the United States may only now be truly awakening to.

That a good man like Rick can find himself caught in a web of simply "doing a job" that becomes a moral dilemma, is hard to fathom until you think about what someone, you or I? might find himself faced with to protect himself and his family.  Life issues.

The beauty of Building the Wall is that Schenkkan starts us off with the fear and conflict of an angry convict literally doing a dance of hostility.  He's probably just a thug who deserves to be in prison.  Gloria, his polar opposite, an attractive, educated liberal history professor who happens to be a black woman begins her interview as a challenge, but the dialogue evolves into an examination of humanity, morality and ethics. It never really solves the problem. It doesn't offer a solution. But the experience does give the audience troubling insights: reflections that are even physically apparent with scenic designer Se Oh's perfect reproduction of a prison interview room.  The upstage observation mirror gives the audience an opportunity to see itself as possibly complicit.  

Foxworth has a lot to work with as the convicted felon.  Unsympathetic, tattooed, filled with Republican pride, angst and anger. The arc of the character reminds us all that our morals are fluid and sometimes fate is unkind. Ms Platt  presents initially as a well educated researcher,  privileged, even though she tells us that growing up black in the South usurped her innocence at the age of six.  Prejudice and privilege face off in their finely tuned dialogue Ironically, this prison is not unlike the privatized institution where Rick had advanced to become a supervisor where his moral ethic had become compromised: compromised because the now disgraced president, not unlike Hitler, has stirred the pot with prejudice, fear and loathing to the point of mass murder.  The final line, "Who would want to live in a country like that?" chills as we ponder our own ethical and moral choices.

Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan

 The Fountain Theatre 
 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) 
 Los Angeles, CA 
 Extended through August 27
Saturdays at 8 p.m. 
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Mondays at 8 p.m.  
Three Fridays at 8 p.m.,  
July 28, Aug. 11 and Aug. 25. 
Tickets range from $20$40
every Monday is Pay-What-You-Want.
Secure, on-site parking is available for $5
The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible.
Reservations and information
(323) 663-1525 


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