Fatherland Review – Greek Tragedy Circa 2024

Ron Bottitta and Patrick Keleher in FATHERLAND - Photo by Jenny Graham
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Verbatim theater has reached a milestone of excellence with FATHERLAND. And exactly what is verbatim theater? Conceived and directed by Stephen Sachs, FATHERLAND sports no writer’s credit – since every word in the play comes from court transcripts, podcasts, sound tapes, and other sources which documented the statements of the two principal characters as it happened in the true story.

Patrick Keleher and Ron Bottitta – Photo by Jenny Graham

Ripped from recent headlines, FATHERLAND is the story of a father and son, a father and son who find themselves embroiled in the explosive events of January 6. The first defendant to stand trial for the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, Guy Reffitt was found guilty on five criminal counts and sentenced to 7 1/4 years in prison – based in part on the emotional testimony of his son. What led up to this turn of events? FATHERLAND attempts to answer some of these questions.

Ana Khaja, Patrick Keleher, Ron Bottitta, and Larry Poindexter – Photo by Jenny Graham

The story probably begins when the father (Ron Bottitta) loses his job, slowly and inevitably resulting in his traumatic fall from middle class to poverty level as he and his family struggle to exist in an unforgiving world. The son (Patrick Keleher) remembers his father as the loving and even playful dad of his pre-teens – and is horrified by the changed person his father has become. Now he is an individual who has morphed into a paranoid and angry man, ripe for the nihilistic philosophy offered by “the three percenters,” a rebellious and incendiary far-right militia. As father and son grow apart and pops descends into what his son considers mental illness, the teenager makes a decision which will forever alter family dynamics: he turns his father in to the FBI. The gripping court trial which follows will leave its mark on everyone he holds dear as the prosecutor (Anna Khaja) and the defense attorney (Larry Poindexter) delve into what happened.

Patrick Keleher, Anna Khaja, and Ron Bottitta – Photo by Jenny Graham

Skillfully helmed by Sachs, FATHERLAND presents a profoundly thought-provoking scenario: a father who has come to the end of his rope – and a son who must betray his father to uphold his own beliefs. FATHERLAND is a modern day Greek tragedy which tears apart the most important relationships in a family. It also presents ethical conundrums which cannot be ignored. What is right in this story? The powerful cast shines, with special kudos to Ron Bottitta, who grabs the essence of the father from the dry pages in a transcript and brings them to living and breathing life.

Ron Bottitta – Photo by Jenny Graham

Joel Daavid’s scenic design is spare, in keeping with the show’s verbatim approach. Alison Brummer’s lighting adds subtle dimension to the stage, while Stewart Blackwood’s sound and Danyele Thomas’ costumes add to its authenticity.

Larry Poindexter and Ann Khaja – Photo by Jenny Graham

In a talk-back after the show, Sachs emphasized his desire to offer the audience a play which would reflect the current elections taking place in the U.S. He hoped to bring something special to a season which is so important for the future of each of us – and he has succeeded royally. FATHERLAND pinpoints the controversial and often confusing beliefs which are rampant in today’s world. This is a timely and exciting play which will nudge people into taking a careful look at what matters in the confrontational world of 2024. At the same time, it is an intimate study of how larger political views can have ramifications for the closest of relationships. FATHERLAND is a provocative must-see play which examines today’s often two-dimensional climate, a climate which has the potential for violent outcomes.

FATHERLAND runs through May 26, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets range from $40 to $45 (seniors $35, students $25, Pay-What-You-Want Mondays subject to availability). For information and reservations, call 323-663-1525 or go online.


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