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Backstage at 'Something You Did': Two characters on radically different paths
FACING CONSEQUENCES: Rick Foucheux and Deborah Hazlett in "Something You Did," inspired by the life of a violent activist.
By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
To fully commit to the Theater J drama "Something You Did," the playwright, the director and the actors in two main roles had to make peace with characters whose moral lapses are in the extreme.
The playwright, Willy Holtzman, patterned the central character -- imprisoned '60s antiwar radical Alison Moulton -- on real-life Weather Underground member Kathy Boudin.
Boudin, who was paroled in 2003, served 23 years in prison for her role in a 1981 armored-car robbery in which two police officers and a security guard were killed. Holtzman wanted to write a play about someone like Boudin but thought he had to change the nature of the crime.
"To have her background and her advantages and her intellect . . . and then go astray the way she did, it's hard to understand, isn't it?" Holtzman says rather rhetorically.
"I couldn't begin to write about the Brinks armored-car robbery," he continues. "For me, that only can be seen one way. So I put that aside and invented the event of the play." CONTINUE READING
Theater review: 'Something You Did' at Theater J
By Nelson Pressley
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Political discourse is one of the subjects of Willy Holtzman's densely topical "Something You Did" at Theater J, so there's no point complaining that it's melodramatic. What else could it be? In the real world, debates turn partisan; moral issues inevitably get cast as good vs. bad. We wrestle over history and shout to control the narrative. We don't do gray very well. And the talk isn't very graceful.
"He's the devil," declares Alison Moulton, the jailed antiwar activist in Holtzman's drama (which premiered two years ago and is getting an earnest, if not fiery, staging at Theater J). Alison is describing an old lefty colleague and lover who has morphed into a hyped conservative rant-master. In the play this figure goes by the name of Gene Biddle, but David Horowitz and Glenn Beck are his real-life analogues; Gene not only churns out books but also spouts political sanctimony on TV. Alison is based on Kathy Boudin, the Weather Underground radical who spent more than two decades in jail for her part in an armored-car robbery that killed two police officers and a security guard.
Obviously, this fictionalized history is terrific material for the stage -- an urgent topic with combustible characters, complex motivations to untangle and ethics to explore. ("Something You Did" is taking the place, by the way, of the previously announced "Imagining Madoff," which was withdrawn by its playwright when Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel objected to being rendered in that piece.) Alison, like Boudin, is the daughter of a famous liberal lawyer; in the play, Alison's late father's law partner, Arthur, counsels a meeting to see if Biddle will step off his high horse and help her get parole after decades in prison. As the diplomacy and strong-arm tactics unfold, Holtzman even revisits the 2008 campaign issue of Barack Obama's ties to political radical Bill Ayers. CONTINUE READING
We Love DC
We Love Arts: Something You Did
By Don, 9:00 am September 3rd, 2010
Theater J’s Something You Did is a perfectly serviceable little production of a little play that revolves around very little personal growth and revelations that aren’t very revelatory.
Update, 3:08p: If you’ve seen the play – or don’t intend to – and want the spoiler-ific version of this review, absent the deliberate efforts at avoiding revealing plot, you can check out my comment.
When City Paper wrote about Theater J subbing in this production for the original contender they quoted Artistic Director Ari Roth. He spoke about filling “a very particular slot – that of our High Holiday season-opener, hop-scotching the Days of Awe, a period of personal and collective reflection.”
Which makes it so odd that the one thing this play absolutely lacks is any hint of reflection from any of the characters.
There’s conflict aplenty, mind you, right from the get-go when Alison butts heads with a prison guard simultaneously with helping her write a letter. The letter is supposed to go to a traffic judge, begging forgiveness for a minor offense. It’s a nice little scene that you eventually find yourself wishing had been allowed to pay off. CONTINUE READING
Something Willy Holtzman Did: A new look at old politics at Theater J
September 2, 2010 - 05:30 AM
By Maura Judkis (Twitter @maurajudkis)
Seventeen days after Willy Holtzman’s play Something You Did opened in New York in 2008, George Stephanopolous asked a question in the Democratic primary debate that would change the play forever. In regards to then-candidate Barack Obama’s association with former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, Stephanopolous asked, “Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?”
But before it changed Holtzman’s play, it changed the election, which thrust Obama’s connections to Ayers in the forefront, and culminated in a speech by Sarah Palin, where she accused him of “Pallin’ around with terrorists.” Throughout this, Holzman sat back and watched.
“I should be cynical enough, but it shocked me how much traction it got and how alive these issues are,” says Holtzman. “Also the rhetoric, the way it was talked about and propaganized in this looking-glass world, where things like bombing and terror have new meaning. Some of the figures that might have been romanticized in the 60’s to the general public might look like common terrorists now. So I had to go back in and explore that.” CONTINUE READING
Performing Arts: Something You Did at Theater J
Posted on 08 September 2010
Theater J presents Something You Did, a gripping emotional drama examining the consequences of youthful ideals.
By Julie LaPorte
Entering her 30th year in prison for the part she played in the death of a police officer in an anti-war bombing, Alison Moulton is seeking more than just an early release from jail. She is seeking mercy, understanding and a way to make amends. Written by Willy Holtzman and directed by Eleanor Holdridge, Something You Did is playing at Theater J through October 3.
There is no question that Alison Moulton (Deborah Hazlett) bought the nails that filled the bomb that exploded in a train station, but the resulting death of Officer Renshaw was not her intent. Eager to help her win parole after 30 years behind bars are her lawyer Arthur Rossiter (Norman Aronovic) and her prison guard Uneeq Edmunds (Lolita-Marie). Standing in opposition are the policeman’s daughter Lenora Renshaw (Aakuh Freeman) and Alison’s former-lover-and-activist-turned-neoconservative Eugene Biddle (Rick Foucheux).
Hazlett’s Alison is reserved, contained, as though her prison bars are now inside her soul. But she is still arguing passionately for the ideals of her youth, for “the good old days when we knew better days would come,” as Gene tells her quietly. Foucheux was brilliant as Gene – dynamic, forceful, unapologetic of who and what he has become. Aronovic portrays Arthur as a scrappy Brooklyn street fighter, used to fighting for lost causes. But his gruff exterior can do nothing to hide the care and worry he has for Alison. CONTINUE READING
Jewish Daily Forward - Arty Semite
Seventies Radical Replaces Madoff in Theater J Season Opener
By Menachem Wecker
Deborah Hazlett as Alison Moulten in ‘Something You Did.’
“Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word,” Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman) notoriously tells the parole board in “The Shawshank Redemption.” “So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.”
Three decades into her incarceration as an accessory to the murder of a police officer, Alison Moulten, the heroine (or anti-heroine) of Willy Holtzman’s “Something You Did,” which opened this week at Theater J in Washington, D.C., is as cynical as Red is about the prospect of freedom. But whereas Red mocks the parole board, Moulten decides to contact the victim’s daughter (Aakhu Freeman) and tries to enlist her help, as well as that of a former colleague-lover turned political nemesis.
Holtzman and director Eleanor Holdridge present the most sympathetic portrait imaginable of Moulten (Deborah Hazlett), a stand-in for the Weather Underground Jewish radical Kathy Boudin, who was part of a 1984 armed robbery that left three dead. Moulten counsels fellow inmates with AIDS, runs a literacy program, and helps a guard (Lolita-Marie) dodge a $200 traffic violation ticket. Though it remains mysterious how naming names would improve her situation, Moulten also refuses to identify her co-conspirators, who planted the bomb that killed the officer. CONTINUE READING
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