Through October 1|
THE PARADIGM BOMB The Compass Performing Arts Center/545 Elmwood Avenue
For generations of bomb-throwing terrorists, the key question is: Will you actually do it?
Will it work?
Can you be forced to do it?
History says there is that choice, whether the target is a Tsar, a brutal executioner and racist or just some family of a different religious sect.
Modern warfare also shows more and more terror groups will rig the weapons carried by suicide bombers so that if the carrier doesn’t push the button, it will be done by remote control.
Of course, you don’t often see that remote controller carrying the bomb to his or her death.
Many times, there is a propagandist, the hunter who can find those who can be persuaded to carry and detonate the bomb without the hunter being blamed.
That’s what Victor Morales’ character does in ART impresario Matthew LaChiusa’s “The Paradigm Bomb.”
The story is built around a disgruntled and radicalized college professor, Charles McGregor, who is
anxious to do something about his society, after an incident which has put him on the outs with his college leadership, leaving his job on the line.
His girlfriend, Suzanne Hibbard, who romantically backs his quest to change the world, is there and listens to the endless discussions led by Morales’ character.
It’s proof of Shakespeare’s “words, words, words.”
Morales talks about his roots in South American military dictatorships and his support for those who would violently change the world.
He never quite tells the professor to kill people, as if assuming there is a microphone hidden in his favorite coffee shop or in the professor’s apartment, dancing around a direct suggestion to perform the work of terror.
It’s grooming in a political way.
LaChiusa’s play is too long and too wordy but it makes the case of the long intellectual struggle on both sides of the political divide that murder is a legitimate tool for advancing each side’s political purposes.
It sometimes reads like those old Russian novels of endless plotting in the dens of Paris against the Romanovs in the old Russian Empire.
It’s interesting there isn’t an Inspector Javert watching the three, warning them of the risks about their conversations.
Instead, it’s just three people and principally the professor and the agitator talking about ends and means.
These aren’t some high schoolers talking about toilet paper masses put on an opposing high school for Homecoming.
These are adults talking about murder and building a platform to justify what they are considering.
It leads up to that fateful choice: Will you push that button?
The show is dominated by Morales’ character, pushing and prodding the two other characters into believing the ends justify the means and performing the means.
Playwright LaChiusa’s “The Paradigm Bomb” looks hard at the world around us.
And, the means and ends are openly debated in that world.
Director Monish Bhattacharyya handles this effectively.
Word plays like this are notoriously difficult to make interesting because there is so little action on stage, leaving it up to the director to keep it from just a couple of people sitting around a table arguing to something theatrically dramatic.
This is and that’s why “The Paradigm Bomb” is worth seeing, recognizing that LaChiusa’s play runs to long, long arguments.
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