Saw The Great Inconvenience by Holly Arsenault (and directed by Erin Kraft) at the Annex Theater this weekend. It was pretty bad.
The year is 2050. The United States is a theocratic totalitarian state. A group of performers at a history museum re-enact key moments from the country’s past for the benefit of the school children of the wealthy. Their skits are nothing more than nationalistic propaganda, a whitewashing of history. Into this mix comes a runaway girl who knows the true history (or rather, the true future history) of the US. Soon the performers are questioning the real nature of America’a past and their own places in it.
How you react to this play will most likely depend upon how plausible you find its depiction of the not-too-distant future. If you believe that the US will soon descend into civil war, or that theocratic rule (unseen in our history since the 17th century) is right around the corner, or that major American cities will form revolutionary military alliances, or that native-born Americans will soon be stripped of their citizenship and deported, or that any moment now Jews will be rounded up sent off death camps (yes, that’s in there, too) then this play is your cup of deranged, flaming, paranoid liberal tea. On the other hand, if you think that those ideas are not only ludicrous but exactly the reasons why you don’t hang out with your liberal friends so much any more then you should spend your theater-going dollars elsewhere.
I found the play far-fetched, silly, etc. but also poorly written. Arsenault's futuristic premise is so heavy-handed that the characters are never fully developed. They remain little more than props upon which she hangs endless passages of prophetic exposition. One never really cares about them. Only towards the last minutes of the play did any actual humanity begin to appear among them. And by then it was for them, as it was for America (portentous pause), too late.
The one bright spot of this production is the actors, who do a very good job with the material at hand. Mi Kang, Marty Mukhalian, Samantha Canela, Nick Edwards, and Jocelyn Maher make a wonderful ensemble. They couldn’t save the play, but their good work did save the evening.