"Political theater" as a rubric covers a range of narrative tropes, but two current productions provide very different lenses for looking at the corrosive effects of achieving — and hanging onto — power at any cost.
"Leaves, Trees, Forest"
Charles is the quintessential "young man in a hurry" in Paul Notice's "Leaves, Trees, Forest," now in a world premiere with MPAACT under Carla Stillwell's direction. A recent graduate of
Notice's script has its share of credulity-straining moments. For example, Charles' ace in the hole is writing the draft of a proposed bill that allegedly would bridge the gap between "
But Notice, himself a relatively young playwright, has a sharp handle on the exuberance and hubris of youth, and by setting his story in the world of post-Obama, black post-graduate life, he brings a refreshing measure of generational conflict to the table. Though the revelations about Clayton's sexual history could feel hoary, Notice teases out the conflict that gay rights has engendered in some quarters of the black religious community with nuance.
MPAACT has long been a standard-bearer for new work from black writers that examines how younger generations must negotiate a radically different political environment than the one that birthed the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Despite a few hiccups here and there, Notice's play and Stillwell's production (anchored by the ingratiating-despite-himself performance of Morgan as scheming Charles) raises some sharp questions about entitlement, privilege, and what those on the way up owe to those who gave them a boost.
Through March 3, Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.; $22-$25 at 773-404-7336 or mpaact.org
"Accidental Death of an Anarchist"
Nobel laureate Dario Fo's 1970 sharp-elbowed absurdist farce has its roots in a real-life event – namely, the 1969 death-by-defenestration of Giuseppe Pinelli, a railroad worker and anarchist, in a Milan police station. In Fo's version, a possibly mad creature named, suitably enough, "the Maniac" impersonates a judge investigating the tragic incident.
The Maniac turns the cop shop cattywampus by having the inspectors re-enact their own patently ludicrous version of events. In the town that spawned
Yet despite game performances all around (Rory Jobst's cop does a disturbing lip-sync to