Righteous indignation gets a full-bodied and -bloodied airing in David Williamson’s intense drama about a lefty ideologue, John Alderston (Mick Thyer), who comes crashing into the luxury Australian apartment of renowned and now-retired international journalist Robert “Bob” King (David Ross Paterson). Alderston has come to fact-check his biography of the former Time magazine correspondent — that’s the purported reason. The real reason has more to do with fury at and vengeance for King’s failure, during his rise to fame and wealth, to report on four genocides (the Kurds in Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was our ally, and incidents in Timor, Ecuador and Guatemala). Was King really placating editors and enriching himself from a docile American public when we were training torturers in Guatemala and Ecuador and subverting democracies there in favor of dictators? Is that the purpose of a “free” press? Williamson’s erudite and worldly play puts King on trial, and his self-defense is an intellectually dazzling commentary on the art of compromise and survival in an arena where nations really do eat their young. Alderston’s indignation is surpassed only by his hypocrisy: On that score, Williamson lays it on a bit thick, as he does the psychoanalysis of the furious idealist. Do all of life’s travails have to be laid at the feet of mum and dad and their emotional unavailability? That said, the performances dance on a high-tension wire, thanks to Paterson’s rat-smart portrayal of King and Thyer’s self-righteous yet brittle Alderston. The event unfolds in the intimate upstairs confines within Mortise & Tenon furniture store, an environment that further intensifies the verisimilitude.
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