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‘Hate’s’ Crime Is in Failing to Explore Motives

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A bomb was set off in a Jewish temple, underneath some children spending the night on their way to camp. Three of the children were hospitalized. The police have arrested Michael Carpenter, leader of a white-supremacy group called the Brotherhood, and Jack Jackson, his dim-bulbed Dogberry.

In Joel Beers’ “Hate,” in its world premiere at the Tribune Theatre, Carpenter’s arrest, his questioning by female Lt. Rivera, and his clever manipulation to effect his release, play like a television script. There’s more in Beers’ story, however, than he has unearthed.

The characters talk about hate crimes, white supremacy, evil and responsibility but never become real people. Everyone knows how hate mongers such as Carpenter think. What Beers should have told us is what makes Carpenter tick and, for that matter, what makes Rivera tick.

That’s the difference between writing for the stage and for the tube. Even in an unnecessary scene at home between Rivera and her lesbian lover, Lynn, the dialogue sounds as though it’s out of a tract.

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Carpenter is clever and more intelligent than most people. But that’s nothing new. His type has been around a long time. Some of America’s founding fathers found ways to rationalize their support for slavery. Carpenter is only following in such footsteps, but Beers, a Fullerton resident, gives us only the result of his misguided anger, not its genesis.

*

Bradley A. Whitfield’s direction is tightly wound and effective. He might have suggested to the playwright the deletion of the lesbian scene. Nothing is accomplished by it, and making Rivera a “double” minority seems like movie-of-the-week overkill.

The performances help by fleshing out the characters outside of the strictures placed on them by the writing.

Jennifer D. Rendek is very strong as Rivera, with a focus on the insecurities behind Rivera’s bravado. Christopher Michael Egger’s Carpenter is as slick and intellectually manipulative as he can be, and Egger gives his characterization a sharper edge by making Carpenter charming to a fault. (Adam Clark alternates as Carpenter.) As the violence-prone Jackson, Steven Lamprinos is frenetic, likable, vulgar and, with Jackson’s Silly Putty brains, so easily led it’s laughable. But it isn’t laughable. Jackson is the stereotypical specimen preyed on by people such as Carpenter.

Darri Kristin is notable as Carpenter’s bimbo girlfriend, who may be just waking up to what her lover really is, and Nicholas Boicourt Jr. gives a powerful performance in a standard role as a harried detective who doesn’t want to be as gentle as Rivera is.

Steve Woodworth isn’t able to overcome the thinness of his written role as another detective, and Carol Antonow is understanding and affectionate as Rivera’s superfluous lover.

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* “Hate,” Tribune Theatre, 116 1/2 Wilshire Blvd. (entrance on Amerige Avenue), Fullerton. Thursday-Sunday, 8 p.m. Ends Sunday. $5. (714) 525-3403. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. Christopher Michael Egger: Michael Carpenter

Steven Lamprinos: Jack Jackson

Jennifer D. Rendek: Lt. Rivera

Nicholas Boicourt Jr.: Detective Kerrigan

Steve Woodworth: Detective Burroughs

Darri Kristin: Monika

Carol Antonow: Lynn

Terry McNichol: Myles Paine

A Revolving Door production of the world premiere of Joel Beers’ drama, produced by Jennifer Bishton. Directed by Bradley A. Whitfield. Lighting design: Steve Spehar. Sound design: Michael O’Hanlon. Costume/props design: Darri Kristin. Video: Dan Michelson.

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