The Pulitzer Prize nominated Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery, now running at the Matrix Theater is more than what the critics have been raving about for years now (i.e., "Astonishing and Riveting -NEW YORK TIMES). It is, I believe, the heralding of a new (or renewed) tone desperately needed for the survival of American drama.
In the wake of social media consciousness and our attraction to real time responses caught on camera etc., it's difficult to speak the voice of the collective without coming off as leading, contrived or didactic. When art attempts to explore hot button issues such as those explored in this masterpiece of a play, 'What is happening in the soul of the American Right Wing?'
Mr. Arbery doesn't tell us. He explores his own authentic right-wing upbringing - painfully - brilliantly - moving from issue to issue without landing on a single 'judgey' or leading moment. With this freedom, so much is explored, safely, violently, clearly... One feels like interrupting the play with your own opinion on a matter, but the writer moves too quickly. He's burning with the next issue and the next issue. He is not interested in teaching; Just revealing as much as he can. Mr Arbery, the writer, is by far the star of this play.
The actors themselves are sublime. Obviously conscious of the skill, presence and timeliness of Arbery's words, not a moment is lost to any artifice or ego driven performance. Watching each actor think, process and respond to the living moments we are all experiencing is a gift you should run, not walk to receive.
Stephen Tyler Howell's Justin is 'that guy' - Right wing Sam Elliot type. But Mr Howell keeps dropping us deeper than we expected into the complex vulnerabilities of such a man. He is dangerous and beautiful at the same time. Emily James' 'Emily' is broken both in body and political conviction, but luckily so. She's not as 'sure' about her world as the others. Ms. James walks the line seamlessly and surprises us with her ultimate truth masterfully. Evangeline Edwards is beautiful, scary, authentic as a crocodile and clear. Her performance is lighting in a bottle. Samuel Garnett's Kevin is simply genius--never a false moment. His limping predator arch (wounded but easily the most dangerous man in the room) will live with me for a long time to come. And then there's Roxanne Hart's Gina. Ms. Hart (a former Tony nominee)'s performance is a gift for all lucky enough to see this production. Her grace on stage can't really be quantified. She offers surprise after surprise revelations of the depth of the 'Right's' university educated point of view or perspective.
Set design by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz is divine. Christopher Moscatiello's soundscape held us quite capably in the dangerous silence of a Wyoming farmhouse. The production design in its entirety was seamless and effective. Kudos to director Guillermo Cienfuegos for invisibly grounding this production with the gravity of Jupiter. Each dynamic, from the actor's 'thinking' to the silences and rhythms between scene changes made this 2-hour production fly by as though time had stopped. Highly recommend this work. One of the best I've seen in decades.
Heroes of the Fourth Turning runs at 8pm Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays; 3pm Sundays EXTENDED through October 16, 2023 (No Performances Sept 10 & 11). Rogue Machine (in the Matrix Theatre), is located at 7657 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets are $45 for general seating. Seniors: $35 Students with ID: $25. Pay-What-You-Want Fridays: Sept 1 ($10+), Sept 8 (15+), Sept 15, 22 (20+).