Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Rep Presents "Muckrakers" by Zayd Dohrn - An Intriguing Examination of Privacy In The Digital Age

New Rep Theatre launches its 2015 Next Rep Black Box Festival with the intriguing play "Muckrakers" by Zayd Dohrn.  The playwright was moved to examine the complex issues of privacy and transparency in a digital age following the WikiLeaks whistle blowing revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 and the leaking of classified information by Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning in 2010.

In this gripping drama, multiple layers of secrecy - of both public and private information - lead to several clever plot twists.  Here is the scenario as described in the New Rep website:

"A young activist hosts a famous political journalist/hacker in her apartment. What follows is an evening full of rich debate over who has the right to information, how much the public needs to know, and the consequences of power. Dynamics shift when secrets are revealed and each discovers that there is always a price to pay for privacy. In the wake of controversy surrounding WikiLeaks and NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, The Boston Globe calls MUCKRAKERS “an absorbing play that’s ripped from the headlines.” 

 It is often a temptation of a playwright who is addressing complex and controversial issues to get preachy and to force his characters to speechify or to pontificate.  There is very little of that type of excess in Mr. Dohrn's script.  He allows the two characters, Mira and Stephen, to reveal their philosophies through their interactions, and the result is a gripping and complicated tale of self-righteousness, hypocrisy and deception.

 How appropriate that a play that deals with deep dark secrets should be performed in a Black Box! And the naming of the characters has been well chosen. "Mira" in Spanish translates as "to look or to watch."  Mira certainly is watching Stephen very carefully to learn what he knows and how he plans to disseminate potentially explosive information.  Where will he draw the line between transparency and privacy?  In the Bible, Stephen was the first Christian martyr, who "went among the people" telling truth that was dangerous in the volatile political environment of his day.  In this play, Stephen is a fugitive who puts himself at risk by traveling to NC and speaking to Mira's cabal of anarchists and left-wing rebels - putting himself "among the people."  Is it a coincidence that Mira gets Stephen "stoned" at a crucial point in the story?  Perhaps I am reading more than the playwright intended, but I love the irony of these dynamics.

The play is set in Mira's Brooklyn apartment, beautifully rendered with exquisite detail by Set Designer Alexander Grover. Costumes by Tyler Kinney, Lighting by Christopher Brusberg and Sound Design by Edward Young complete the well-conceived mise-en-scène.

 Under the steady hand of Director Bridget Kathleen O'Leary, Esme Allen as Mira and Lewis D. Wheeler as Stephen carry out a convincing ballet of mutual seduction that puts flesh and blood on the well-articulated skeleton of the script that Mr. Dohrn has wrought.  Their individual performances are strong and flawless, and their chemistry keeps you wondering exactly what kind of explosions will erupt when nitro mixes with glycerin.  The resulting tension makes for a thrilling evening at the theater.

Esme Allen and Lewis D. Wheeler
"Muckrakers" by Zayd Dohrn
New Rep Theatre
Arsenal Center for the Arts
Through February 1
Photos by Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures.

I am not giving away much of the plot here, because the plot twists are part of the delicious fun of this drama.  I am also revealing my personal philosophy of privacy and transparency!  I invite you to come and see for yourself how these issues resolve themselves on stage.  Go on-line to purchase your tickets (your transaction will be tracked!), drive to the Arsenal Center for the Arts (EZ-Pass and GPS will record your movements), and enjoy the show.  It is no secret that this is a clever script masterfully enacted by two gifted actors.  Come and reveal yourself to be a discerning patron of the theater!



Through February 1st at the Arsenal Center for the Arts.
For mature audiences. Contains nudity, sexual situations, and adult language.
New Rep Theatre Website

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