Patriot Act

REVIEW by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES -- PATRIOT ACT: A REALITY SHOW by Charles A. Duncombe, now in a world premiere run at City Garage, is a socially conscious play about the threat to democracy posed by the Bush regime's Patriot Act, which gives it the right to pry into just about every area of a citizen's private life, under the guise of protecting America from terrorism. Duncombe, managing director of City Garage (and its resident designer), dramatizes the theme by creating a character, known only as "Man" (the compelling Bo Roberts), who is being grilled by three "interviewers" (Kathryn Sheer, Paul M. Rubenstein & Tom Killam) who will decide whether he will be allowed to compete in an inter-active TV show aimed at discovering America's most patriotic man or woman. First prize is a million bucks.

The interrogation turns grim and sinister as it unfolds; it also becomes clear that more than just money and showbiz are at stake. The interviewers begin to resemble inquisitors on a ruthless quest to stamp out dissent and democracy, all in the name of safety and security. Or are they just play-acting, a trio of production assistant pretending to be FBI agents?

Duncombe's tight, 90-minute play is provocative, timely and courageous. There isn't another playwright in the USA who has dared to put the battle over the real Patriot Act on stage.

City Garage, 1340 1/2 4th St., Santa Monica. Call (3l0) 319-9939.