[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of Crimson Square Theatre Company in association with Beverly Hills Playhouse’s “OUTRAGE,” written and directed by Allen Barton, running October 20 – November 19.
Before “Outrage” begins, an ominous voice welcomes us to the theatre, advises us of the emergency exits, gives us a warning that what’s to come that might make us a little uncomfortable…then makes a joke of it. Which in retrospect is a pretty close description of this thought-provoking play.
Set a few years ago, while 45 was still president, the story revolves around Ethan, a theatre owner and playwright, teacher and something of a mentor to many up-and-coming writers, producers and actors in Los Angeles. He has a reputation for excellence, but his politics are known to be, well, not liberal. For those of us that live in Los Angeles and are honest, it’s not surprising that, even amongst the most creative, there is room for all kinds of left, right and centers. But I’m sure you would agree that pre-2016 and post, it all feels a little different. For Ethan and his wife who both voted for 45, there is an agreement to keep that to themselves…considering the world they travel in.
Adding to this fictional drama is a current court case in L.A. concerning the shooting of a young Black teenager by a Hispanic policeman. And it’s the outcome of this controversial and racially charged case that becomes the turning point for Ethan, his wife, their life and his theatre.
During the last president’s term, the temperature rose on a daily basis and exponentially. Tempers were taut, to say the least, and every time something harrowing happened in the country we were all expected to take our positions and to our corners. And to be public about it. Particularly on social media and when Ethan does not post his outrage to the verdict and refuses to when asked by his students, the effect is immediate and devastating. He loses everything. His theatre is burned to the ground and friendships decades old are broken irretrievably. His politics they could take, as long as he kept it quiet, but his position on boys being murdered they could not.
“Outrage” is a fascinating play. Not for the faint of heart and perhaps it’s not the perfect time to dissect our ability to live with utterly disparate notions of morality. But then when is it?
As uncomfortable as some of this made me I am hugely supportive of the need for all voices to be heard. As long as they are respectful and non violent. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve overheard far worse at Best Buy or wherever. And in the play, there are multiple sides to most arguments made. Did Ethan deserve to lose everything because he refused to toe the liberal line? Probably not. And I think the point is made somewhat that the reaction was a little overzealous…we never do know who lit the actual match. But then we have all moved so far beyond what we ever thought was normal, haven’t we?
And a play in a theatre acted by excellent actors with hearts and minds of their own might just be the perfect place to exercise the muscle of moral debate. And let’s face it, either side you land on, the political climate is now very firmly a moral one.
I could sense many shifts in mood from the audience, but never once was there one that took their eyes off the stage. As I get older I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to stories that push my buttons. I get enough of that on social media uninvited. But that being said, I think “Outrage” is really about how fast our blood pressure rises and how difficult it is to maintain that level. It’s exhausting. And everywhere. And more relevant than almost anything right now. So it’s worthy of exploration and demands that we face it and at least in a theatre we can face it together.
The cast is excellent, the actors always truly wonderful at The Beverly Hills Playhouse. The writing is provocative and very specifically from Ethan’s point of view, but it works very well. Would the writer consider his character provocative? I’m not sure and perhaps that’s the point…that we do not know. The final scene, post-Ethan’s apocalypse, is particularly stirring. Ethan is looking for work, any kind of work, he does have kids and his wife’s career has tanked. He interviews at a warehouse for an office job and the owner is the antithesis of all things liberal and gloriously played with rabid abandon by Peter Zizzo. A star turn in fact. And it brings us back to life, even as it shakes us up to know that we probably know many people all around us just like him and that he has as much a right to exist as we do. But it’s an oddly positive way to leave Ethan. Facing his ego and his future in such a way…
Tickets: $35.00 / $15.00 Students
Extended through November 19
Friday and Saturday 8PM and Sunday 7PM
Beverly Hills Playhouse
254 S Robertson Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90048
ETHAN: Peter O’Connor
LORI: Cameron Meyer
ELAINE: Terri Parks
PHILLIP/DOUG: Hope Brown
JEREMY: Derrick VanDerMillen
JAMIE: Whitney Nielsen
EMILY: Sara Ball
TOM: Kirk Fogg
BRYAN: Evan Ewing
MURRAY: Peter Zizzo
EMILY: Freya Adams
ELAINE: Nancy Paley
JEREMY / JUAN: Sam Seba
JAMIE: Nicole Varona
Writer – Allen Barton
Director – Allen Barton
Executive Producer – Mia Christou
Producer – Karla Kamm
Associate Producer & Front of House Management – Caprice Ott
Mentor Stage Manager – Jeffrey Sun
Stage Manager – Miles Cooper
Lighting Design – Derrick McDaniel
Set Design – Mia Christou
Sound Designer – Christopher Moscatello
Assistant to Director – Arzu Auzzy
Publicity by Sandra Kuker PR