Barrington Stage Company's 'Muckrakers': Real life catches up with new play


PITTSFIELD -- The Edward Snowden affair hadn't happened when Zayd Dohrn wrote "Muckrakers" over a year ago and revised it once or twice since -- before Snowden; well after Julian Assange.

Circumstance certainly has caught up with Dohrn but foresight, coincidental or not, is not, on its own, the stuff of good playwrighting. "Muckrakers" is a case in point.

Set in a studio apartment in Brooklyn, "Muckrakers," which is having its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain Stage, pits a naive, overly idealistic 26-year-old waitress named Mira (a frequently shrill Kate Rogel) opposite Stephen (a somewhat one-dimensional Kahan James), a 40-year-old Brit whose habit of revealing to the press things governments don't want revealed to anyone has made him a marked man.

As a result he has grown extremely cautious, almost paranoid. He takes few chances. Believing he is secure inside Mira's flat, he drinks incautiously. His expectation, after having been a huge success as the keynote speaker at a conference organized by a group with whom Mira is actively involved, is of a night of alcohol and sex.

Mira is standoffish although it seems clkear that, no matter what else happens, sex will come into play (and it does in a graphic sequence).

But the main business before Mira and Stephen is political. Mira runs what she describes as an agit-prop news source devoted to bringing "things out into the open. Make everything visible," she says, "everything. Total openness and accountability." For her, there is no difference between exposing the nasty business of government and laying bare the private behavior of everyday individuals.

For his part, Stephen believes total openness and accountability apply to governments; individuals, he argues, have a right to maintain their personal privacy.

And as they argue, debate, probe, the evening builds to revelations and a twist at the end that makes clear what has been implicitly understood all along -- that idealism comes at a steep price.

For all the back and forth, however, neither Rogel nor James get beneath the skin of the posturing that defines their characters.

In a hit-and-miss evening, "Muckrakers" does have its moments, not the least of them the poignant, insightfully played aftermath of Stephen and Mira's lovemaking -- a rare moment of truth and exposure in a play that is, in too many ways, very much about covering up.

Theater Review

MUCKRAKERS by Zayd Dohrn. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli; scenic designer, Brian Prather; costume designer, Amy Clark; ligjhting designer, Scott Pinkney; sound designer, Daniel Kluger. Through July 6. Eves.: Tue.-Sat. 7:30. Mats.: Thu., Sat. 4. Barrington Stage Company, St. Germain Stage, Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield. Tickets: Prices start at $40. (413) 236-8888; 1 hour 12 minutes


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