Our national obsession with the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, the Menendez brothers and now the O.J. Simpson trial only partially stems from any desire to determine guilt or innocence. These cases also point to our collective confusion about racial fury, sexual harassment and the privileges of the rich and famous.
In "Unquestioned Integrity," at the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company's Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre through April 2, playwright Mame Hunt probes these larger questions by focusing on Hill/Thomas. Through dialogue drawn from the actual transcripts of the hearings, she accuses the white male Senate committee--played by one actor, Jack Banning--of being the most nefarious and two-faced villain in the battle.
In 72 minutes (without intermission), as Banning alternately badgers and butters up Hill (Robin Wilkinson) and Thomas (Carl Gilliard), it becomes clear that the goal of these hearings is not to determine the veracity of Hill's charges of sexual harassment or whether Thomas is fit for the U.S. Supreme Court, but to score political points with as much mudslinging, posturing and pomposity as possible.
The problem is that the show is static, and director Adleane Hunter has not found a way to compensate.
Jeff Hall's set design sets up a long Senate hearing table with Banning in the middle of 13 identically dressed white male dummies. It's an effective image that grows dull after the point is made. Wilkinson portrays Hill with great dignity and intelligence but without modulation from beginning to end. Gilliard's wildly erupting anger needs to be directed. And Banning, who captures a Southern senatorial type particularly well, would do better to convey a variety of inflections. Still, despite its flaws, "Unquestioned Integrity" provides a sad look at our government at work.
* "Unquestioned Integrity," Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company's Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre, 444 4th Ave., San Diego. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Ends April 2. $19.50-$25. (619) 234-9583. Running time: 1 hour, 12 minutes.