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IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE Subversive Theatre/Manny Fried Playhouse
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Sep 21, 2017, 13:05
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Through October 7
IT CANíT HAPPEN HERE Subversive Theatre/Manny Fried Playhouse

Subversive Theatre does many shows other local theaters are no way going to do, in keeping with its message of dissent.
The difficulty is that it often Subversive uses performers who arenít up to the task, with limited projection, even in the small Manny Fried Playhouse.
Of course, there are often strong performances and thatís true in ďIt Canít Happen Here,Ē a stage version of the Sinclair Lewis novel about a demagogue who defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt to win the presidency and create a dictatorship.
The production makes it clear itís concerned with the potential of Donald Trump to do that, with a shoddy, shaggy hair piece and the insertion of repetitive memes from our incumbent president.
Lewis probably wrote the novel about Louisianaís Huey Long, who was killed before he could run in 1936.
He never became president although Roosevelt was very concerned about the Cajun demagogue.
Instead, in the novel and in the play, Roosevelt loses to Buzz Windrip (Marty Gartz), who promptly turns his uniformed supporters, the Minute Men, into the white shirts of his movement, vigilantes and enforcers, because Buzz doesnít trust government.
So, he gradually dissolves Congress and government until his people are absolutely in control, right down to the levels of the smallest communities.
Thatís where Doremus Jessup (Dennis Keefe) comes in, the editor of a small, family-owned newspaper in an obscure valley in Vermont.
Heís one of those wishy-washy editors who fears Windrip, but doesnít believe he has a chance to win, although a visit to a Windrip rally scares him.
Gradually, as the new government grabs hold of the countryís throat and martial law takes over, Jessupís position becomes bad and he eventually becomes a propagandist for the new order, forced by the drunken and effeminate Swan (Christopher Standart).
An underground develops but the Minute Men systematically crush the opposition, mostly based in Canada, and seal the border and even do in a few of their own.
Thatís actually unlikely if you have ever been along the U.S. border with Quebec and the Maritimes, but this is a play.
The ending is a real twist but not a good one.
Most of the American people buy into Windripís promises of better times and are willing to give up their liberties for those better times.
Benjamin Franklin thought that might happen.
Certainly, Lewis looked at what was going on in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and used that to help create the play but he also used the American system of demagoguery and peopleís willingness to seek comfort.
If thereís a message, thatís it, people giving up their freedom in exchange for comfort and eventually not getting either.
There are a couple of strong performances in this show, my old boss Keefe, Standart, Molly/Oliver Lewarsí lawyer Philip, Bryan Figueroaís Shad Ladue and J. Tim Raymondís Buck.
Director Kurt Schneiderman does a pretty good job, although the Trump additions to the script are gradually beaten into the ground.
There are a couple of the performers who canít be heard, hard to believe in the tight confines of the Fried.
ďIt Canít Happen HereĒ is a sermon to the converted, then and now.
Could it happen?
Who knows.
But, there are certainly a lot of people who believe it can and they will like this show.

A.W.

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