Every Secret Thing

[The following review is scheduled to run at and in Variety magazine the week of June 10th.]

Comparisons between McCarthy-era red-baiting methodology and the current Bush anti-terrorism campaign have been plentiful since theatre companies rebounded from the gagging of critical voices immediately following 9-11, but Every Secret Thing, now receiving its world premiere by Modern Muse in Denver, has something new to offer—a poignant autobiographical tale from the heartland circa 1954.

With prodding from the FBI for "names and conversational details," an entire local educational system is turned upside down, from the grammar school to the university, as a bevy of private lives fall victim to the insinuations of witch hunters who, as they have throughout history, find a heretic or terrorist under every bed.

Jessica Posner as Maxine and Gregory J. Adams as Richard Packard
Jessica Posner as Maxine and
Gregory J. Adams as Richard Packard
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Scribe sets the point-of-view within the school system itself—in the faculty lounge, principal's office, and classrooms of a middle school—where decorated WWII veteran Richard Packard (Gregory J. Adams) teaches civics to a talented, but overzealous student, Maxine Hoyt (Jessica Posner).

Manipulated by state propaganda and unconstitutional police tactics, Maxine believes she is doing the right thing until Packard shows her that she has destroyed what she loves most.

Adams is thoughtful and cogent as Packard, the stoic hero and moral voice of the play. Posner's malevolent glee provides a clear emotional reference to Miller's The Crucible. Support performances from helmer Steve Lavezza's cast give the script its due.

However, the play remains a work in progress, with a number of elements interfering with the through line: the pacing lags in a couple of stretches; the staging, with five separate but closely proximate areas, occasionally steps on itself (as in the date-stamping of each scene, where quick lighting changes and glare limits the intended impression); the scripting has some loose ends (What becomes of the FBI agent branding a teacher a pervert, the war hero's inexplicable and comic queasiness over another man's bloody nose, or the principal's spineless vacillations?); and the drama begs for at least one scene to flesh out Maxine's ideological seduction (otherwise, her equation of 19th-Century Russian music and ballet to Communism is too much of a jump).

Despite these shortcomings, the story resonates (as the "authorities" and the media work in concert to stifle dissent), and its real-life basis (as a kid, GeBauer was conscripted by cops to write down license plate numbers) serves as a warning to anyone willing to listen.

Modern Muse Theatre Company's world premiere of Every Secret Thing runs through June 30th at the Bug Theatre. 303-780-7836.

Bob Bows


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