By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The ultimate problem is that Berkoff couldn’t make Will Rogers a likable person; although he’s a shrewd observer of human behavior, he’s also incapable of creating sympathetic characters. Where another author might take BBS’s diametrically opposed characters and discover a narrow common ground that may say something about their time and culture, Berkoff is merely content to pin tails on his cockney donkeys. So after about an hour, the play ends, and guess what? We feel even smugger and more superior to Derek and his mates than they do to gays and minorities.
As technology develops more complex and subtle methods of information gathering, our tendency onstage is to simplify social issues to visceral blood clots. But there’s a difference between a play with a viewpoint that’s debated and one that’s nothing but viewpoint.
Twelve Angry Men had an opinion, yet writer Reginald Rose wasn’t content to simply have it stated and then “attacked” by a buffoon or two. Instead, he planted, in his sweltering jury room of apparent rock-solid consensus, a conscience that the audience member hoped was his or her self: a lone, nonconformist opinion that, in the end, proved to be the voice of reason and fair play. But we had to go through two acts to have that opinion vindicated. Today, many playwrights simply draw characters with signs hung around their necks (“Gay Basher,” “Southern Christian,” “Bigot”), and we’re supposed to take it from there. The problem is that there’s no place to take it, which partly reflects the absence of political discussion in this country — every side has demonized the opposition to the extent that the very presence of rival members on a school board or a baseball team is cause for boycotts and picket lines.
The case of Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker is particularly instructive. After denouncing virtually every band of the diversity rainbow in a Sports Illustrated interview, he was swiftly brought to ground by outraged monitors of public safety who demanded his firing. Instead, he was suspended without pay for two weeks and forced to visit a shrink; as of this writing, his owners are desperately trying to trade him.
Ironically, if he had sat with his hands folded on his lap like a good boy during his interview and told the world how much he enjoyed riding the subway and that some of his best friends were gay, black and foreign-born, no one would have paid any attention to his remarks. In fact, they probably would have been considered too bland to even print, and Rocker would have had to find another outlet for his reassuring views — perhaps he would have been forced to take up playwriting.THE SONS OF LINCOLN | By LARRY GOLD At the LILLIAN THEATER, 1076 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood | Through May 14 BRIGHTON BEACH SCUMBAGS | BY STEVEN BERKOFF Black Irish Productions at the ELEPHANT SPACE, LILLIAN THEATER, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood | Through April 15 ____________________________________________
The 21st Annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards (honoring work on stages of 99 seats or less) will be held on Monday, April 10, 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.), at the Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., downtown, and includes a post-show reception catered by Mexicali and accompanied by Millhouse. Slated to perform are Tim Miller and the casts of White Trash Wins Lottoand Forbidden Broadway: Y2K L.A.! Also appearing: Barbara Beckley, Nathan Birnbaum, Julie Briggs, Culture Clash, Charles Duncombe, Tamar Fortgang, Ellen Geer, Mitchell Gossett, Lars Hansen, Sally Kirkland, Cleo King, Lee Lawlor, Shon LeBlanc, Alan Mandell, Alec Mapa, Frederique Michel, Adolfo Nodal, Katherine Noon, Lynn Redgrave, Rand Ryan, Avery Schreiber, Ron Sossi, John Spencer, Raul Clayton Staggs, Sasha Varchuk, Polly Warfield, Lee Wochner and Chay Yew. Financial support for the Playwriting Award generously provided by A.S.K. Theater Projects. The event is sold out. To be placed on a waiting list, call (323) 993-3693, on the condition that admittance to the theater cannot be guaranteed.