Terre Haute -- Theater Review

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Blank Theatre's 20th season kicks off with an upfront, in-your-face play that reduces the American Peril to a love duel between two men, their lifestyles and their attitudes. It is a hopeless cry for common sense from uncommon men and a transformational performance by Mike Farrell as a writer and Jim Parrack as a psychopath.

The play consists of a fictitious series of meetings between Timothy McVeigh and Gore Vidal types in the week leading to the former's execution in the Indiana city of Terre Haute in 2001. At the visceral human level, it is a voyeuristic evening of foreplay and climax between two men separated by panes of glass and worlds of experience. As the play continues, the roles and the actors converge; they are one and the same. Politics becomes irrelevant.

For Parrack and Farrell, this also is a play of movement. Separated as they are, their physical lovemaking becomes a shadow play like something out of Indonesia: highly principled, disciplined and inclined to the melodramatic. Farrell is an old man finding brief surges of youth triggered by the intellectual chess game he and Parrack play. Parrack is a young stud dressed in Army orange whose energy and brain power lack only the simple Tin Man's heart.

It is a highly stimulating and challenging play for the audience. Tension on the 99-seat theater circuit always is palpable, and that's 50% of the fun; one doesn't know what's going to happen. The doors are shut, you're sitting next strangers, and suddenly Mike Farrell from "M*A*S*H" is there in front of you, looking 100 years older with wavy white hair. Between scenes, he supplies homey, James Whitmore-style narration. He makes it clear from the start that he is not going to be doing a Gore Vidal impersonation.

As LA Opera is doing with its current hit "Il Postino," the production makes a strength of reduced circumstances. The visual elements are outstanding; the set is something out of Edward Hopper. Even glass panes play a dual role: In addition to heightening the sexual excitement, they flash chilling reflections of Farrell's inner despair.

Venue: Blank Theatre Company, Hollywood (Through Nov. 14)
Cast: Mike Farrell, Jim Parrack
Playwright: Edmund White
Director: Kirsten Sanderson
Set designer: M. Jennings Turner
Costume designer: Bethany Jane Bohatila
Lighting designer: Cameron Zetty
Sound designer: Warren Davis
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