The solution to homelessness is government regulated slavery according to Playwright Kathleen Akerley. She bases her story in the aftermath of the Congress approved Rectification Act of 2015. The legislation outlined provisions for the homeless. They are moved into Centers and trained with a work skill. In return, they are forbidden from pursuing or even desiring a better life. They have lost their free will. They are no longer human. They are possessions.
Although I found Akerley’s cure for homelessness evocative, I thought the timing was off. TYRANT takes place in 2035. Even though homeless folks are currently dehumanized by society, they don’t necessarily see themselves that way. Twenty years isn’t enough time to squash the human spirit for an entire marginalized population. The complete evolution of thought would occur several generations out from 2015. The objectifying of large groups of people takes time. Akerley’s former homeless have been fully domesticated. And they are also uneducated and unaware. In Akerley’s near future, the internet must not exist.
Still if I suspend my reality to this reality, I found the story riveting. Two ‘rectifees‘ have been purchased as massage therapists. Clare O’Connor (Regina) and Andy Lutz (Leon) play submissive with heart-tugging innocence. Their unspoken bond is the sweet spot. Despite their training to not want anything, they have an underlying and unromantic affection for each other. They support each other in their servitude. O’Connor and Lutz guilelessly respond to every demand from their narcissistic padre played by Matt Fletcher (Martin). The conceited Fletcher prides himself in being forward thinking. He encourages his rectifees to call him ‘Martin‘ and not ‘Padre‘ during massages. He decides to ‘actualize‘ a therapist from the Center to interpret his visions. And here’s where my interest is completely engaged.
As a rectifee and a therapist, the determined Karie Miller (Nicole) has special dispensation to challenge a Padre. Miller’s questions make Fletcher lose control. All the issues of human dignity and equality bubble up. A perplexed Fletcher must deal or not deal with his life. This is the thought-provoking crux of the play. Fletcher perfectly illustrates the emotional conflict of believing he is infallible. Someone or rather something is questioning his reality.
The entire ensemble does a terrific job of pulling us into their different realities. Although I got sucked into this new world, I found the pace stilted. Just based on the amount of times Fletcher had to dress and undress, the show could be tighter. Akerley, with co-director Megan A. Smith, should collapse scenes together for a more streamlined TRYANT.
This show is thought-provoking. It reminded me of Hunger Games. The disparity between economic classes is making it easier for high society to detach from human kindness. My reality is I believe Akerley could be predicting the future. It’s a scary and plausible reality. The Rectification Act could be passed in 2015. It’ll just take much longer than 20 years for rectifees to not feel entitled to a better life.
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
Written by Kathleen Akerley
Directed by Kathleen Akerley and Megan A. Smith
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru June 29th
Buy Tickets at www.theatrewit.org
Production photo by Jonathan L. Green
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