A fascist elected President of the United States?
The initial reaction may be It Can't Happen Here—but that's exactly the title of Sinclair Lewis' prescient and strangely timely 1935 novel and 1936 drama, which opens the 2016-17 season at Berkeley Rep in Berkeley, CA.
The play will be presented in a new adaptation by artistic director Tony Taccone and screenwriter Bennett Cohen in a production directed by Obie Award winner Lisa Peterson. The show starts previews September 23 and opens September 30, timed to coincide with the height of this year's presidential election campaign.
As production notes put it, It Can't Happen Here ”follows the ascent of a charismatic, power-hungry, and corrupt politician, who runs for president of the United States on a platform of ‘good ol’ American values,’ promising ‘to return the country to greatness.‘ He wins the office and then leads the country into totalitarianism and a resulting financial and political tailspin. The story is told through the eyes of a liberal journalist, who bears knowing witness to the threat but is unable to take action until circumstances leave him no choice.”
The book and play were based on the career of Depression-era politician Huey Long, who attracted a following in the U.S. simultaneous with the rise of fascist dictators Mussolini and Hitler in Europe.
The cast features David Kelly as Senator Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip and Tom Nelis as Doremus Jessup.
The creative team includes Rachel Hauck (scenic design), Meg Neville (costume design), Alexander V. Nichols (lighting design) and Paul James Prendergast (sound design).
Tickets for It Can't Happen Here go on sale August 14 at berkeleyrep.org or by calling (510) 647-2949.
The 2016-17 Berkley Rep season is scheduled to continue with The Last Tiger in Haiti, a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse and directed by Joshua Kahan Brody; the U.S. premiere of 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, in association with Kneehigh and Birmingham Repertory Theatre and helmed by Emma Rice; the irreverent Broadway comedy Hand to God, directed by David Ivers in its West Coast premiere; and Roe, a new play by Lisa Loomer and a co-production with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arena Stage.