A story of rage, violence, love and the “redemptive power of art,” the Spring Term play “Our Country’s Good” will be performed this weekend by the LU drama department.Professor Tim Troy directs, and Theatre Fellow Annette Thornton co-directs, the early ’90s play by Timberlake Wertenbaker. Wertenbaker based her work on the novel ***The Playmaker*** by Thomas Keneally. The action takes during the voyage of convicts and British officers to an English penal colony in Australia in the late 18th century. The convicts and officers on the ship decide to put on a play (within the play), George Farquar’s ***The Recruiting Officer.*** “Our Country’s Good” addresses issues of power, physical hardship, and the physicality of humanity.
“I’ve been dying to do this play for over a decade,” said Troy. “It has a great message without being preachy: what do you do when you have power over people?”
The play’s content and stage movement dually represent much of the power and physicality of the play. Senior Julie Silver, who plays the part of convict Dabby Bryant, said the directors “gave us ideas to play with on and off stage of different ways of moving.”
Sophomore David Hanzal, who plays a “flamboyant pickpocket turned actor,” added that each of the two main character groups in the play – convicts and officers – were encouraged to “experiment with different movements in the context of the play.”
“It’s a robust, lively, active, almost athletic type of movement on stage,” Troy adds. “There’s violence and abuse, but it comes organically from the context of the play and it’s honest.”
Junior and lead Aram Monisoff, who plays Lt. Ralph Clark, the director of the play within the play who falls in love with the lead female, argues that parallels could be drawn between “Our Country’s Good” and the modern soldier-prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq or Quantanamo.
“The play asks ‘what are human rights?'” said Monisoff. He added, “It’s only politically charged if you believe theatre is not important to society,” indicating that raw humanity presented in the play is just a part of society and not liberal or conservative unless you make it so.
Ultimately, the play is about art its power to change humanity. “Putting on a play reminds us that we’re civilized,” Troy said. “It’s a great play to do in a university setting for a thousand reasons – it provides achievable challenges, good dramatic writing,” and many other laudable dramatic qualities.
The play will be performed May 11-13 at 8 p.m. and May 14 at 3 p.m. in Stansbury Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Tickets are free for members of the Lawrence community.
Names, dates checked