[THEATER REVIEW] Building the Wall

Gloria (Judith Moreland) questions Rick (Bo Foxworth) in a prison meeting room in Building the Wall.

I would like to think that the face of evil is easily recognizable, but Robert Schenkkan’s new play, Building the Wall, onstage at the Fountain Theatre, challenges that scenario proving that seemingly ordinary people can become monsters and do the unthinkable in authoritarian situations.

The story is set in 2019, presumably after President Donald Trump’s immigration policies to round up and eject millions of illegal immigrants from the United States have taken place.

Bo Foxworth plays Rick, a Trump supporter and the supervisor of a private Texas prison for undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation.

As the prison fills with detainees, disease breaks out and living conditions become impossible.

Rick has been arrested and is in solitary confinement awaiting sentencing for crimes, which are slowly revealed as the play progresses.

As the play opens, Rick arrives to be interviewed in a stark prison office by Gloria (Judith Moreland), a liberal African American history professor, who tries to understand Rick’s motivations. She tells him she wants to give him an opportunity to tell his side of the story. Initially the two warily discuss their ideological differences, but Rick begins to open up, even discussing his wife’s difficult pregnancy.

Until his story fully unfolds, Rick seems as ordinary as the guy next door. He tells how the prison became over crowded with detainees whose countries of origin refused to accept their return. An outbreak of cholera and increasingly unlivable conditions in the prison led to his complicity in an unthinkable solution.

The 90-minute one act play is directed by award winning Michael Michetti.

Bo Foxworth, recently seen in Schenkken’s All the Way at the South Coast Repertory, is eerily chilling as the ordinary and patriotic sounding Rick. Ovation award winner Judith Moreland’s Gloria maintains her conscience as she gains Rick’s confidence and allows him to tell his harrowing tale.

Pulitzer winning playwright Schenkken wrote All the Way, which won the Tony Award for best new play in 2014 and co-wrote the Oscar-nominated Hacksaw Ridge. He wrote Building the Wall in one week in response to the immigration policies of the fledgling Trump administration and after the inhumane treatment of returning immigrants in airports across the country. Five theater companies across the country have agreed to present the play.

Building the Wall asks what might occur if draconian immigration policies actually take place and asks what we as citizens would do as a response to widespread roundups.

I was particularly moved by the play as I’ve often pondered what I might have done in Nazi Germany if my neighbors were in danger of deportation. I’ve never thought I might be called to make such a decision in 21st Century America.

As a call to action, the theater provided the audience with stamped postcards addressed to President Trump on which we could put our opinions regarding the forced ejection of the undocumented from the country.

Building the Wall through June 18th at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave. Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. Mondays at 8 p.m. Tickets $20-$35. Pay what you can every Monday night. (323) 663-1525 or FountainTheatre.com. Onsite parking, $5.

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