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The Greater Good

There was a time when cautionary tales of totalitarianism were termed dystopic, as if importuning such broken futures would serve as an impetus for us to wake up and avoid the ravages of fascism—but no longer: the Constitution lies in shambles, the economy and the markets are rigged, and critical thinking has been reduced to commercial product preferences.

(Left to right) Erica Johnson as Ket, Sam Gilstrap as Daniel, Sean Verdu as Carter, Madison Kuebler as Stel, and Ben Griffin as Simon
(L to R) Erica Johnson as Ket, Sam Gilstrap as Daniel,
Sean Verdu as Carter, Madison Kuebler as Stel,
and Ben Griffin as Simon
In Rebecca Gorman O'Neill's The Greater Good, set seven years in the future, we see the present, just as Orwell saw the machinations of 1984 in 1949, when it was published. "Artists are the antennae of the race but the bullet-headed many will never learn to trust their great artists." (Ezra Pound)

Five creative types—a painter, a linguist, a sports journalist, etc.—are confined to a limited urban habitat, where strict curfews, required medication, and thought police are the standards.

The group ruminates over their confinement, for the crime of being intelligent enough to potentially see through the façade of the state's mantra, "for the greater good" and in its never-ending wars against foreign and domestic threats, including unnamed diseases that are blamed for population decline. Carter (Sean Verdu) and Simon (Ben Griffin) see no grand plan behind the state's crackdown, while Stel (Madison Keubler) is adament that they must escape. Daniel (Sam Gilstrap) and Ket (Erica Johnson) have their own agenda.

Despite the repressive externalities and ideological conflicts, it's difficult to care about these folks, as what little connection they have to each other is undeveloped and mostly intellectual, leaving us with only an allegory regarding our present circumstances and the clever matrix that envelops the unquestioning majority of our fellow citizens. A degree of our disconnect also stems from the lack of believability in certain performances and from weak elocution. We wonder, in the post-medication scenes, if the characters' transformations brought greater connectivity and compassion with each other, whether we would take the ending to heart.

Gorman's points are still well-taken: we are like the proverbial frogs in a slowly heating pot of water; when will we wake up to the insidious agenda of those who would serve humankind as an appetizer?

And Toto too Theatre Company's world premiere of The Greater Good runs through November 23rd. For more information: 720-583-3975 or www.andtototoo.org.

Bob Bows

 

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