With New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani battling the Brooklyn Museum over issues of morality and art, Philadelphia's InterAct Theatre Company couldn't have picked a more opportune time to stage Chicago playwright Jamie Pachino's The Return to Morality, which ends its scheduled run Oct. 31. The show began previews Oct. 6 and opened Oct. 8.
Pachino's satirical comedy tells of a novelist whose book is too successful. He's penned a speculative look at what would happen to America if morals sink even lower than they have, marketing the work as if it were non-fiction. The public and the powers-that-be take the book at face value -- even though it envisions the return of slavery, the regression of women into subservient roles, and "white Christian morality" as the ruling political force. A media firestorm ensues, with the hapless author championed by the far right wing he was attempting to satirize.
There's apparently historical precedent for The Return to Morality. In 1967, Dial Press published "Report From Iron Mountain," which billed itself as a secret government document. Speculating on "what if" the Cold War ended, the book imagined a scenario of slavery and overt control of minority groups. According to an InterAct spokesperson, even though the book was revealed as a hoax, some extremist groups still view it as a legitimate text.
Previously staged at the California venues Stage 3 and City Lights, Morality has won numerous playwriting awards, including the Ashland New Play Festival in Oregon and the 2nd Annual Midwest New Plays Festival in Chicago. A co-founder of Chicago's Strawdog Theatre Company, author Pachino's other works include Aurora's Motive, Race, Still Blonde...Runs Deep and Kreskin Be Damned.
Starring in the Philadelphia mounting of Morality are Tim Moyer, Peter DeLaurier, Mary Martello, Michelle Nagy, Kirk Wendell Brown and Wendee Pratt. Seth Rozin, who staged the acclaimed Lebensraum earlier this year, will direct. (Lebensraum, by the way, will return to InterAct, Dec. 9-19.) Designing Morality are Peter Whinnery (lighting), Stephen Dickerson (set), Margie McCarty (costumes) and Ron Schindlinger (sound). For tickets call (215) 569-9700. Upcoming shows at InterAct include:
€ Between Men And Cattle (March 15-April 9, 2000)
€ Drink Me by Mary Fengar Gail (May 24-June 18, 2000)
€ A New Play Showcase (Jan. 19-30, 2000)
€ An evening of monologues, 2000 Voices (Jan. 13-16).
-- By David Lefkowitz