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“Building the Wall” Produced by Azeotrope | Arts Stage – Seattle Rage

“Building the Wall” Produced by Azeotrope

It’s been about two years since Seattleites were treated to a production by Azeotrope. The company has been missed! Now, their brilliance is back and especially evident in “Building the Wall” performing at 12th Avenue Arts. It’s a show you won’t want to miss. Though if you are someone who is quite happy with our nation’s current political situation, it might make you more than a little angry.

Desdemona Chiang directs this two-person tour de force by Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan. It features Tim Gouran as Rick, a convict in a federal prison during a period that is all too near the present day. Shermona Mitchell plays an historian seeking truth. To do so she must determine exactly what his crime entailed.

He’s a sullen, not well-educated guy, and not inclined to trust most people. She, however, a true professional, systematically lays out her documents on the table (the only prop besides two chairs) and begins her well-reasoned interrogation. Gouran is the antithesis of her controlled presence. He’s emotionally taut. He electrifies the stage with his performance as an undisciplined loser, a vile individual!

Then, ever so slowly the ugly truth seeps out, and as the no-nonsense historian (so well played by Mitchell) unravels the facts surrounding Rick’s case, she and the audience are horrified at what has transpired. Oh yes, Rick has committed atrocities, but he is better understood as a cog in the wheels of a corrupt system. You can’t help but think of Nazi Germany; the play’s author makes sure of that. You can’t help but reel back in revulsion as you realize how easy it is through lies and manipulation to bring about evil on that horrendous scale. You can’t help but recoil at the reminder that simple people can easily be used to fulfill the immoral plans of unethical leaders.

The acting is brilliantly nuanced. Director Desdemona Chiang has stripped the stage down to bare essentials. All focus is on the two characters whose every shrug, scratch, frown is carefully undertaken to provide the largest impact.

This is a show with a message, and it’s a message one ignores in peril: evil occurs when good men do nothing. It is then when horrors become normalized, when society is thoroughly polluted.

If you like truly compelling theatre, this one is for you.

Through Dec. 23 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle, 800 838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com. (Admission by donation).

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