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Back Stage West

Drama Logue  -- The Actors Trade Weekly

Review of The Sons of Lincoln
Reviewed by Les Spindle

I

n last year's mounting of The Boys of Mariel, director Valerie Landsburg's imaginative staging exercised Bill Yule and Bary Ball's intriguing but flawed play. With the debut of Larry Gold's dark comedy The Sons of Lincoln, Landsburg has once again lavished her considerable talents on a challenging but problematic piece. In this disturbing depiction of white supremacist movements and media manipulation, moments of raucous humor and chilling drama coexist, but seldom converge into a consistent tone.

Photo by
Craig Schwartz

At its best, this paranoiac serio-comedy approaches the edgy ambience of a John Frankenheimer political thriller. A former schoolteacher known as Lincoln (Bill Fagerbakke) ensnares wayward young men and controls their minds, schooling them in the finer points of bigotry and using them in his self-serving ploy to gain political power. Lincoln first infiltrates show radio to spread his hateful messages, then turns to sleazy television  talkshows. A black former actor (well played by Glynn Turman) and a Jewish producer (excellently portrayed by Joel Polis) meet with Lincoln's men in their secluded basement headquarters to plan a staged confrontation on a Jerry Springer-type trash show. The genuine hatred among this motley group results in a more frightening encounter than anything they could possibly contrive for a TV episode.

Under Landsburg's taunt and visually arresting staging, a mostly successful cast keeps the keeps the verbal fireworks exploding, Fagerbakke elicits chills as the creepy manipulator Lincoln, compose of equal parts Oliver Twist's Fagin and KKK Grand Dragon-turned-politician David Duke. Among the lost souls who fall into Linclon's lair. Tony Colitti makes the most juiciest role: a mulatto who is put into a leadership position, much to the fury of other members, resent his "monkey blood." Chad Allen is convincing as a nerdy 7-11 clerk, who segues from a stuttering introvert to a hate-mongering bigot.

As a slow-witted skateboarder, Jonathan Avildsen deftly demonstrates the dangers of ignorance combined with a troubled upbringing. Racial slurs flow profusely form his mouth, while his general vocabulary skills are less accomplished (i.e. "work ethnics"). In the role of a cocky airhead who seeks out and beats up "gay birds." Lawrence Monsoon initially impresses, but his performance lapses into caricature as he postures and preens as if he were playing the Fonz on Happy Days. This adds to the schizophrenic tone, which vacillates uneasily between sitcom-broad humor and stick-in-your-throat type laughter.

On the opening night, this problem was compounded by overzealous cast supporters, who whooped it up so excessively that Gold's seriously intended play began to take on the aura of barroom burlesque. When this unfortunate phenomenon occurs at openings (as it too often does), neither the cast, the audience, the director, nor the playwright receive a fair shake.

"The Sons of Lincoln," presented by Casey Productions in association with the Lillian Group at the Lillian Theatre, 1706 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood. Thurs -Sat 8 p.m., Sun 7 p.m. March 10 - May 14. $20 (310)289-2999.

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