In May 1968, Father Daniel Berrigan (Andrew E. Wheeler ) and eight other peace activists seized 378 draft documents and publicly burned them with napalm to protest the Vietnam war and other American government atrocities. Drawing on court transcripts, this play is an account of their trial, which ended in conviction and prison terms for all defendants. The script Saul Levitt's stage adaptation of Berrigan's original verse rendition lays out an impassioned argument for following the dictates of one's conscience, even when it involves breaking the law. Each defendant relays what spurred them to take action: a nurse (Paige Lindsey White) who witnessed American planes bomb Ugandan villages, burning children, a couple in Guatemala (Patti Tippo and George Ketsios), who saw American money used to outfit the police while peasants starved, an Alliance for Progress worker (Corey G. Lovett) who became privy to CIA machinations in the Yucatán. Taking it all in is the presiding judge (Adele Robbins). Her sympathies, reflecting ours, lean toward the defendants, even as she rules against them. Under Jon Kellam's direction, cogent performances successfully counteract the script's didactic language and cumbersome progression, even though Robbins' performance lacks nuance. Perhaps most disturbing is the piece's reminder that the aggression and subterfuge of the Bush administration constituted not a reversal of past policy but a radicalized extension of it. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 21. (310) 838-4264.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Feb. 14. Continues through March 28, 2009