Norman Kreeger, played by David Calvitto, has recently published a book on 21st century extremism and appears as a guest on Issues in Focus, a late night political talk show to share his expertise on the subject. Off camera, both Kreeger and the interviewer appear composed, exchanging pleasantries and gazing around the auditorium. We begin to realise that not only are we spectators of this production but that we also play the part of viewers at home, sitting idly by the television set, absorbing the language of newspeak.
Yet once the show begins, the dynamic between the two characters noticeably alters. Domineering and with unfaltering confidence, Kreeger describes extremism as ‘the final threat to democracy’ in a variety of ways while the interviewer struggles to follow his train of thought and contributes little to the debate, other than reiterating her counterpart’s views.
‘Freedom is…freedom’ we are told. This inability to define words central to their argument invites us to dissolve the distinction between extremist ideology and America’s notion of democracy. Indeed, many of the points Kreeger raises are done so in an effective, implicit manner, subliminally urging us to consider the propaganda we are all subject to. However, this revelation should have been handled with a greater sense of subtly and not have been evident from such an early point in the text. Once an audience recognise that they are unequivocally watching a satire, the piece loses its disturbing edge and, in spite of the witty, well delivered dialogue, is somewhat stripped of its ability to affect.
At one point in the play it seems as if the interviewer peers through Kreeger’s non-sequiturs and is about to undergo a personal epiphany, wherein she understands that she is little more than a government mouthpiece. No such luck. This realisation is almost instantly quashed by a slight change in topic and fails to return at a later stage. It would have been interesting to witness the two characters begin to drift apart or at least engage in a prolonged dispute over one particular aspect of democratic values.
Yet David Calvitto and Carol Scudder deliver fine performances, keeping the audience engaged throughout and bouncing off each other with delicious chemistry.