The audience is the captivated 4th wall in Robert Schenkkan’s gripping, all too timely masterpiece, “Building the Wall,” recently premiering at the Fountain Theatre, Hollywood. Upon considering attending this politically charged performance, I first thought it may be too soon to see a futuristic political drama, set in 2019 Trump America. Donald Trump has inspired this show, as all the bizarre talk of the leader of the free world as we know it , is realized in this compelling conversation. Yet, quite the contrary, as the current political soap opera evolves daily, this hot button topic is ripe and ready for theatrical presentation. In “Building the Wall,” Schenkkan builds on the implications of the war on immigrants, whether legal or undocumented. Flash forward: Trump is impeached, and the play focuses on a heated interview between Rick (Bo Foxworth), a death row inmate, being held in solitary confinement; and Gloria (Judith Moreland), an African American history professor, fascinated by his story and intent to learn of his motivations for the torture instilled in the prison he managed. Claiming, similar to the too familiar claims in Nazi Germany, of ‘merely following orders,’ the play’s dark, dismal tone and intense energy is felt by all witnessing the candid conversation. The two carry the performance impeccably, as one can practically hear a pin drop between the pauses of dialogue. In this Orwellian take on a post Trump presidency and apocalyptic world, we are treated to the horrific machinations of a narcissistic politician’s hopes and dreams realized, in particular his ardent war on immigrants.
Schenkkan, with a natural proclivity to works based on history (“The Kentucky Cycle,” and “All the Way”), truly delivers in this provocative psycho-social production, sure to keep the audience members in awe, long after the show’s end. Not only was a physical wall built, but a symbolic barrier alienating one people from another, as imaginary protection against the unknown.
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