Reviewed by Kevin T McEneaney
Are the books that you read subversively extreme? What about TV talk shows? News anchors? Do they get your attention by being extreme? Of course, they do—that’s how they get your attention—by giving you the problem to solve. One minute they show you a volunteer helping an elementary school, then they segue to a bombed-out city, then a memory-aide commercial, which will help you watch more television. They have you where they want you: in your seat eating ice cream or pretzels.
But that kind of food is not allowed in theaters where pretzels or ice cream can be confused with reality. In the theater there is no reality, or the reality is on the stage and the stage is a vehicle for reality, but that only happens when the actors move your mind to your gut. They can do that, these actors—watch out for them because they could have extreme ideas that might confuse your sense of reality. Or humor. Yes, they are faking it up on that stage and they can make you laugh—even subversively laugh when you realize that these actors in New Milford are just puppets in the hand of some rather extreme writer who you will probably never meet, especially if they are from Wales, or have a name that sounds like they are form Wales, like this CJ Hopkins, but no, he is an American playwright and not even Willypedia knows where he came from.
There was an ancient poetic form among the Celts whereby two poets from opposing views wrote alternating passages in an ongoing poem. There were many of these, but the bight young State Censor under Cromwell burnt hundreds of such dastardly Celtic poems written in Irish or Welsh, so you can’t ever read them. Yet he missed one, The Cattle Raid of Cooley.
This hopping Hopkins has taken that Celtic technique and he is confusing everyone he can because we no longer know what theater is, or who we are, or what strange things are happening in the world, or what extremists will do to keep you away from theater, especially if the script is funny and the acting marvelous. Dick Hedgerow is excellent as the straight man while Norman Krieger is an amazing hoot as the manic expert on how people think and how to control what people think through the medium of television. Theater should really be banned because nobody even knows what it is anymore. Deconstructions have deconstructed theater and they have found nothing but air and empty atoms behind the words.
So, what you need to do is buy some ice cream and hunker down in your bunker. Director Francis A. Daley at Theatreworks might be microwaving your mind if you sit for 90 minutes with words coming at you like bullets and you have to keep ducking or laughing until you feel so free that you don’t have a mind at all: that everything is too complicated and the bs is like radioactivity in the air, and it’s escalating, so you should just follow the program, whatever that is.
Why would you want to laugh, anyway?
The Extremists runs through April 2. Tickets can be found at https://theatreworks.us/
P.S. This play was a startling success at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.