BWW Review: AMERICAN UNDERGROUND at Barrington Stage Company A Profound New Drama That Asks Us To Examine Where We've Been, Where We Are, and Where We Are Going.
Once again, Barrington Stage Company brings us another bold, brave, important, timely, and highly relevant piece with the world premiere of the Bonnie & Terry Burman New Play Award Winner, AMERICAN UNDERGROUND by Brent Askari.
In the not-so-distant future, an interracial couple, Anna and Roger, enjoys a visit from their college-aged son, Jeff, when a young Muslim woman, Sherri, arrives at their back door. She's looking for safe passage via a new Underground Railroad as Muslims are being detained and imprisoned. Suddenly, a government official, Kourtney, knocks on their door, wreaking havoc on the family. They must decide how much they will risk to save an innocent woman. This riveting thriller takes us inside a stark vision of an unapologetic America.
Playwright, Brent Askari's script is brilliant. It combines elements of
dystopian works the likes of Fahrenheit 451 with those that you may have recently, or soon will, read in the daily press or hear on the evening news. There are moments of subtle humor blended with the harsh reality of truth. The characters find themselves asking what is "normal"? They remember that "there was something called normal once, but it just keeps creeping farther and farther away. They come to the realization that "being upset and behaving irrationally is a normal response to what's going on". Sadly, they find that they have reached a point where "fiction has become superfluous". Where "lawyers craft elaborate fictions to get their clients off" and as justification for distasteful, heinous and here-to-fore unthinkable acts. We find ourselves pondering did "those people" have it coming - did they "do it to themselves", or is that perhaps, just a convenient conspiracy theory?
The superb cast is directed by BSC's Artistic Director, Julianne Boyd and features Alan H. Green as "Rog," Natascia Diaz as "Anna," Justin Withers as "Jeff," Rasha Zamamiri as "Sherri" and Kathleen McNenny as "Kourtney." They skillfully keep us guessing as to their true motivations and which side their undeniable passion, and intensity aligns with.
The production is designed by Mariana Sanchez (scenic design), Elivia Bovenzi (costume design), Matthew Richards (lighting design), Fabian Obispo (sound design). David D'Agostino is production stage manager.
This production is, in a word - "tight". The many facets and elements of the script, costuming, sound, lighting, sets, direction, and cast are all notable in their own right. This is a case where they come together and the whole is, indeed, greater than the sum of the parts. The result is 90-minutes of powerful, intense, and frighteningly plausible theatre that is engaging, emotional, intriguing, important, and regardless of your politics or point-of-view, well worth seeing.