The Force Of Change

Review by Willard Manus

Tell the truth about people and it can land you in trouble. Irish playwright Gary Mitchell did just that and now he's in hiding from death threats received after the London premiere of his drama, THE FORCE OF CHANGE. The threats came from paramilitary forces within the Protestant community in Northern Ireland (Mitchell's home) who took exception to the way they were portrayed in the play.

FORCE has now been given its American premiere in a first-rate production at the McCadden Place Theatre in Hollywood. Directed by John Swanbeck, produced by John Montana, acted by a superb cast (Rick Crawford, Peggy Goss, Brandan Halpin, Keven Kearns, Barry Lynch and Montana), FORCE is set, six years ago, in a Belfast police-station interrogation room where two suspected members of UDA, the Ulster Defence Association, umbrella group of the Protestant paramilitaries, are being grilled by four detectives, each of whom, except the chief, Caroline (Goss), is a Protestant.

Not only is Caroline a Catholic but she's a woman, a fact that triggers gender resentment and jealousy. Complicating the police procedures that form the spine of the play is the revelation that one of the dicks is secretly in debt to the UDA. Blackmailed, he's not only willing to betray the investigation but put Caroline's life at risk.

Mitchell's portrayal of the Protestant police as less than perfect upholders of law and order is what got him in trouble with the UDA, which would rather be seen as knights on white chargers. Life is never that simple, Mitchell reminds us; there's good and bad in us all, not to speak of the capacity to betray one's friends and fellow-workers.

The Closet Space Theatre Co. is to be commended for choosing CHANGE as its first offering in L.A. and for giving it such a splendid production (which has been aided by Russ Borski's set and lighting and Wilson Tai's music supervision).

1157 N. McCadden Place. Call (818) 780-066l.