BWW Reviews: Enlightening TRUMBO: RED, WHITE AND BLACKLISTED is Endearing and Witty

Cone Man Running Productions' is bringing the Regional Premiere of Christopher Trumbo's 2003 play TRUMBO: RED, WHITE AND BLACKLISTED to Houston. The play mounted on Broadway with a revolving door of big name celebrities playing Christopher Trumbo's father, Dalton Trumbo. Nathan Lane, Tim Robbins, Brian Dennehy, Ed Harris, Chris Cooper, and Gore Vidal all spent some inhabiting the heroically indefatigable Dalton Trumbo. In New York, the actors were not off-book, carrying the script on stage with them. Cone Man Running Productions has its three actors off-book as much as possible, only reading from the witty and wordy letters composed by Dalton Trumbo.

Christopher Trumbo's play is a non-linear presentation of letters, interviews, and transcripts from hearings from his father's life. Through Dalton Trumbo's own words, Christopher Trumbo deftly creates a character that is completely endearing, clever, and hilarious. The play easily engages the audience, exploring how his and his family's lives were affected by his refusal to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and being blacklisted in Hollywood due to his suspected affiliation with the Communist party.

Direction by Christine Weems guarantees that the audience experiences Dalton Trumbo as a real human. She does not romanticize the man in any way, having her cast handle the words compiled by Christopher Trumbo in a way that feels wholly realistic and believable. Nothing in the portrait seems over the top and is grounded in Dalton and Christopher Trumbo's own logical view of the world.

As the titular character, Carl Masterson's Dalton Trumbo is vibrant, charismatic, sharp, and amusing. He has a clear understanding of the power of words and crafts letters, speeches, and his own dialogue with skillful dexterity to maximize the affective weight behind his words. Everything he writes and utters is pointed and lands perfectly. Carl Masterson also nimbly displays Dalton Trumbo's love for his family, bringing sparkling life to every letter where he discusses trying to do the best he can to provide for his family while being barred from his profession. The dynamic and loving relationship between father and son is brought to vivid life, with the pay off being the comedic "teaching" letter that Dalton wrote for Christopher while he was a student at Columbia University in New York. While the audience may not always be laughing out loud, they will find themselves smirking and chuckling during the entirety of the 90-minute performance.

L. RoBert Westeen brings life to playwright Christopher Trumbo. He narrates the story of his father and provides context for each of his father's shining moments in life. L. RoBert Westeen always and appropriately defers attention to Carl Masterson's Dalton Trumbo, making his own character serve as a guide for the audience.

Casey Coale plays a committee member of the House Un-American Activities Committee and an Interviewer. He does well with both roles, allowing Carl Masterson's Dalton Trumbo to have another human to interact with in two highly intriguing scenes.

Lighting Design by Josh T. Baker is utilitarian in simplicity. He illuminates the portion of the stage being used for each scene, keeping the actors lit in amber light as they speak.

Costuming and Set Design is simplistic as well. Clothing seems appropriate for each character, fitting the personalities being displayed by the actors. The set is composed of one wingback red chair and a side table that has legs that match those on the chair.

Cone Man Running Productions' TRUMBO: RED, WHITE AND BLACKLISTED is a compelling and fascinating examination of a life that refused to be ruined by the propaganda of the Red Scare. Moreover, it is sure to entertain and enlighten audiences.

TRUMBO: RED, WHITE AND BLACKLISTED runs through March 28, 2013 at Obsidian Art Space in repertory with Michael Weems' OKAY BETTER BEST. For more information and tickets to either show, please visit http://conemanprod.wix.com/home.

All photos by and courtesy of Christine Weems.


Carl Masterson as Dalton Trumbo.


L. RoBert Westeen as Christopher Trumbo & Carl Masterson as Dalton Trumbo.


Carl Masterson as Dalton Trumbo.


Carl Masterson as Dalton Trumbo & L. RoBert Westeen as Christopher Trumbo.


Casey Coale as Interviewer.


Carl Masterson as Dalton Trumbo.


L. RoBert Westeen as Christopher Trumbo.


Carl Masterson as Dalton Trumbo.



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From This Author David Clarke