“The Trial of the Catonsville Nine” iTheatre Collaborative

Theater Review – October 27, 2018


iTheatre Collaborative, Kax Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an iTheatre Collaborative production.  The company continues presenting interesting plays that local theaters, other than Stray Cat Theatre, avoid.  The company is currently mounting “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine” which has amazing parallels to today’s political issues.  The play explores the 1968 draft card burning by nine people including two Catholic clergy.  The group took 378 draft files from a Maryland Selective Service office and destroyed those records in an adjoining parking lot as a way to protest the Vietnam War.

A courtroom drama, the play is a bit talky but strong acting makes the individuals and their objections to the war a vibrant affair that is analogous to today’s protests to hostilities and other societal discourses.  Staging the play now reminds audiences that today’s political confusion and protests aren’t the first time these challenges have confronted the United States or its political leaders.  During the trial, It proves hard for the protestors to stick to the subject of the event they are being tried for as they are constantly reminded by both the judge and the prosecutor to stick to the subject of what they did and not dwell on the intent of their law breaking actions.  It is no surprise how each character is judged at the play’s conclusion.

As directed by Charles St. Clair, the play grips the audience’s interest even if it moves slowly and methodically as the testimony of the various characters reveals diverse but similar reasons for joining this Vietnam protest.  The play was authored by one of the nine protestors, Daniel Berrigan, who is forcefully enacted by Bill Chameides as a compassionate and understanding priest with a strong moral compass.  Glenn Parker plays his even more radical priest/brother, Phillip, with authoritarian pain and true annoyance with the war.  Sydney Davis is the impatient Prosecutor who feels strongly that no one should question the United States or its war policies.  Mike Traylor is demanding but quietly reasonable as the Defense Attorney.  Each one of the nine perpetrators speaks eloquently about their reactions to the War and the reasons they joined the protestors to slam what they consider to be wrong military action.  It is an interesting look at an often forgotten historical moment that is chillingly contemporary.

iTheatre Collaborative performs in the small Kax Stage at the Herberger Theater Center which makes the audience part of the action almost as if we are witnessing the actual 1968 trial.  “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine” continues through November 3.  To purchase tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order tickets online at www.itheatreaz.org.

Grade: A