Through Sun 10/2
One of the cardinal rules for wordsmiths is to “write what you know.” Years ago I was asked to give some advice to a young writer that was getting nowhere with his work. He loved spy novels and wanted to write them.
“Have you ever been a spy?” I asked him. When he replied “no,” I had to inform him that was the root of his problem: only ex-spies write successful spy novels. And that’s why Peter Lawson Jones just might be on the cusp of a successful career writing about politics. This is a field he knows in depth and detail, and there are enough political junkies in the world (myself included) for him to find a niche market for his work.
For Jones’ first foray into the craft of playwright (he’s had a successful career as a thespian since his days in law school at Harvard), he penned The Bloodless Jungle, which premiered last week at the Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland Heights. The work is riveting: He doesn’t hit a false note with the dialogue at any point in the night. He clearly knows politics.
Allow me to jump to near the end of the play when Jones deals with the timely issue of college campus date rape and does so with adroit deftness. One of the hallmarks of a great playwright is to have the ability to write good dialogue for the opposite sex or another race. That takes depth, compassion and understanding.
But throughout this work Jones demonstrates his mastery and maturity as a playwright by dealing with age-old issues such as integrity, loyalty and friendship with the same keen sense and import that he devotes to modern-day issues of how media — the press and blogosphere in particular — influences political outcomes for the worse.
Under the direction of Terrence Spivey (who must be busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger these days), an able cast of veterans and newcomers keeps the performance moving along at a good clip. Timing is so important to a stage production and Spivey is a master of this facet of stagecraft.
All of the actors meshed well and turned in solid performances, but as usual, the villain gets the meatiest lines, and they weren’t wasted by Greg White, playing H. Henderson Hill, who embodied everything that’s wrong with politics — and by extension, all that is wrong with American culture in this, the first quarter of the 21st century.
Like Hill states, “Politics is a jungle, you just don’t see the blood on the floor.” Indeed.
Go to ensembletheartreCLE for times and tickets.