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Theater Review: Fatherland

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was turned in by his brother. Gangster Stephen Flemmi finally led police to his partner, James “Whitey” Bulger. And insurrectionist Guy Reffitt’s 19-year-old son Jackson reported him to the FBI.

Guy Reffit was one of the instigators of the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Thanks in large part to his son’s testimony against him, he received what is so far the longest January 6th-related sentence, 7.25 years.

Testimony, evidence and public statements form the basis for Fatherland, billed as “a new work of verbatim theater.” It was conceived and directed by Fountain Theater co-founder and artistic director Stephen Sachs, who recently announced that he is stepping down after 34 years at the helm.

Patrick Keleher, Anna Khaja and Ron Bottista in Fatherland. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Sachs is going out with a powerful piece of theater that adds detail and nuance to the news coverage of a son who put his country before his father. Fatherland, cleverly designed around the spine of the court hearing, shows off the talents of father and son (unnamed in the play) Ron Bottitta and Patrick Keleher. Both give strong, emotional performances.

The stranger-than-fiction tragic tale begins around 2017, when the father goes from having a successful oil industry career that took him and his family around the world, to essentially losing his livelihood. Inspired by the collected writings of Donald J. Trump, as well as Newsmax and Fox News broadcasts, the father starts to morph into someone who could lead an angry mob against elected officials. He finds kindred spirits among similarly aggrieved and testosterone-fueled men, and joins several paramilitary groups. Ālea iacta est: The die is cast.

Tables and chairs on the minimal set are moved by the actors. The U.S. Attorney, played by Anna Khaja helps guide the action, literally turning the tables on the father. The Defense Attorney (Larry Poindexter) enters only toward the end of Fatherland, with a weak and doomed attempt to paint his fully armed and armor-wearing, fist-bumping “G-D patriot” client in a positive light.

One can only hope that Fatherland is performed years from now to an audience shocked to learn that this kind of thing could happen in America. For now, it’s a history lesson whose era is measured in months, not centuries.

Fatherland runs through March 30 at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue near Normandie, on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8:00pm (Sunday performances are sold out). Tickets are $45 and are available here.

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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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