Transport Group revival of Daniel Berrigan’s 1971 play The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, directed by Jack Cummings III, is a little too liberal with its facts. The production presented in partnership with the National Asian American Theatre Company and performed by three actors of Asian descent; David Huynh, Mia Katigbak and Eunice Wong remembers these brave men and women, but seems at times to be forcing their hand.
As you enter the Abrons stage, a table is set in the middle plastered with pictures, news clippings, record albums, files and items that seems like clues. What Peiyi Wong’s set is, is a time capsule for the late 1960s and the Vietnam War.
The actors enter from the back playing multiple characters, breaking gender, having the man play the wife and then the woman, the husband and then sharing the same role at the same time. Highly confusing, though each of these actors are brilliant at what they do.
For those who do not know who the Catonsville Nine were, they were Roman Catholics, ordinary Americans of both sexes making a stand against the war. They broke into a government office in Catonsville, Md., took 378 draft files and burnt them, having invited the press. (See video). The Catonsville Nine never disagreed that they committed this crime, however they insisted, they were innocent due to their intent. To them the crimes the government were committing were far worse.
According to this version of the play the jury was rigged and hung, but it wasn’t (see video below). Misguided …yes. Also the Nine declined to question or challenge any potential jurors during the selection process.
The Korean War, the Cuban crisis, conditions in Latin America, The United States Government interests in Guatemala, the Congo, all seem more important than the atrocities of the Vietnam war. Yet the originally play sears that fact into your head. After all they were trying to stop a war.
Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and one of the nine, wrote the play, Jack Cummings III remix, adapted and directed and the original is much more powerful. Sometimes less is more when trying to make your point.
R. Lee Kennedy’s lighting design, as is the lighting design in True West is obnoxious towards the ending blinding its audience and burning so hot you can smell it.
The nine were brave men and women who acted out of a conviction that the war in Vietnam was profoundly evil, sadly there was and seems there will never be an acquittal for that.
Statement by Thomas Lewis
We were speaking as Americans
We were proud to be Americans
Yet we have representatives in Vietnam
who do terrible things in our name
We were saying to the military
This is wrong … This is immoral … This is illegal
And their response to this was
they were only obeying orders
The Nine were one of the first faces of activism and inspired hundreds of antiwar demonstrations that follow.The Trial of the Catonsville Nine: Transport Group at at Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St. until Feb. 23rd.
The Trial of the Catonsville Nine: Transport Group at at Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St. until Feb. 23rd.