BWW REVIEW: BUILDING THE WALL Just Offers More Questions
Robert Schenkkan, who has created a name for himself as a chronicler of American politics with his plays All The Way and The Great Society, is currently having a Regional Premiere of his new play BUILDING THE WALL at UT in the Oscar G. Brockett theatre. However, unlike his historical plays, this new offering ventures into the realm of Political Fiction, and while it asks all the right questions, it doesn't offer any answers, or, really, even any insights into why we, as a nation, are where we are right now.
The set up for this is a reporter, Gloria (Franchelle Stewart Dorn), comes to a incarceration facility to try to find out why Trump supporter gone too far, Rick (David Sutler) got involved into the nightmare scenario of genocide that eventually is unfurled before us. Rick can't give Gloria clear answers. It seems his involvement was because he kept getting promoted and making more money, entangled with fear of what might happen to his family. This does not give us any insight. Again, this just adds to the growing bank of questions thinking Americans have.
Both Dorn and Sutler give Great Performances that are worthy of far better written material. Kudos also to director Brant Pope for his excellent staging and blocking, that utilizes the thrust stage most effectively. The scenic design, by Bruno-Pierre Hoyle, is a stunning interrogation room made to seem like a metal flag that wraps the proceedings. I'm not sure if there were serious problems with the lighting the night I saw this, or if this was intentionally done by lighting designer, Aaron Curry, but the lights seemed to be constantly shifting in intensity, and served only to call attention to themselves as an ultimately complete distraction that took me out of the moment time and again. This all happens in real time. Lights up and down were all that was required.
In short, this new play, in that it is all questions, robs us of what we look forward to in a script by Schenkkan, and that is his remarkable ability to place things into an understandable historical context.
BUILDING THE WALL by Robert Schenkkan
Running Time: Approximately 90 Minutes, No Intermission
BUILDING THE WALL, produced by UT Theatre and Dance, Oscar G. Brockett Theatre.
Remaining Performances September 9th at 7:30 pm and September 10th at 2:00 pm
The play includes adult language and mature content and may be inappropriate for age 13 and under.
The University of Texas at Austin
Oscar G. Brockett Theatre
300 E. 23rd Street
Austin, Texas 78712
Handicap accessible (if given the option to select)