In today’s Wall Street Journal I review the off-Broadway premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wall. Here’s an excerpt.
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Once more, with feeling: Politics makes artists stupid. Not invariably, you understand, but often enough, and pretty much always when the politician in question is Donald Trump, the mere mention of whom can instantaneously reduce writers on both sides of the Great Ideological Divide to red-faced screeching. I place in evidence Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall,” a two-hander by the author of “All the Way” that is the dumbest play I’ve ever reviewed….
“Building the Wall” is set in the visiting room of a prison somewhere in deepest, darkest AmeriKKKa (oh, whoops, pardon me, I meant Texas). The characters are Rick (James Badge Dale), a white prisoner, and Gloria (Tamara Tunie), a black journalist who is writing a book about him. The year is 2019, by which time Mr. Trump has been impeached and “exiled to Palm Beach” after having responded to the detonation of a nuclear weapon in Times Square by declaring nationwide martial law and locking up every foreigner in sight. The bomb, needless to say, was a “false flag” operation, planted not by terrorists but by the president’s men. As for Rick, an avid Trump supporter, he’s since been jailed for doing something unspeakably awful, and at the end of an hour or so of increasingly broad hints, we learn that he helped the Trump administration set up a death camp—yes, a death camp, as in Zyklon B—for illegal immigrants.
What we have here, in other words, is a piece of pornography written in order to stimulate the libidos of political paranoiacs who find their Twitter feeds insufficiently lascivious. Mr. Schenkkan, on the other hand, has described “Building the Wall” as “not a crazy or extreme fantasy,” which tells you everything you need to know about his point of view. It is, of course, possible to spin exciting drama out of raging paranoia, but that requires a certain amount of subtlety, not to mention intelligence, and there is nothing remotely subtle or intelligent about “Building the Wall,” which is both dramaturgically inept and simple-minded well past the point of unintended comedy….
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Read the whole thing here.
Robert Schenkkan talks about Building the Wall: