Written by Alina Mae Wilson
Political intrigue has the potential to be difficult and fascinating. What really happens behind closed doors is a mystery that tempts the interest of many. This temptation might prompt one to attend Theresa Rebeck’s Zealot. Sadly, Zealot brings nothing new to the political drama genre and it seems to regurgitate important facts but fails to provide a true emotional connection to the audience.
When a peaceful protest at The Hajj in Saudi Arabia prompts a wave of violence against women, the American undersecretary of state Ann Haddad and British consul Edgar Featherstone (who has been living in Mecca for some time) must reconcile their positions as representatives of state with their own moral beliefs–as well as whether or not they should save a life from the Saudi government’s ire.
Although I have never had the privilege to be in a politician’s office while they banter wittily and bicker about technicalities, the problems in the story can be dissected with the same vigor in the public eye. The issues are real. Why and when should government’s interfere with the workings of another nation? How does one truly know the guilt of another? And are we in fact obligated to step in when moral injustices are taking place? These are all valid questions, but they have been discussed before. If there is going to be a new presentation of the issue, then something new should be added to the mix, and in Zealot there is nothing new. It is a recitation of arguments that could have been read on an online chat site, and the efforts to personalize the struggles of the characters onstage to the audience fall flat.
Actors Charlayne Woodard (Haddad) and Alan Smyth (Featherstone) are at home snarking away at each other, but don’t heighten their emotional feedback as the tension progressively mounts in the script. Actress Nikki Massoud plays Marina, a young woman targeted by the Saudi government as an instigator and infidel. Her shy demeanor and quiet strength come across, but her character remains stagnant throughout the entire performance. This makes it hard to love her, which we are clearly meant to do come the closing curtain.
The show does address some valid points, and might create a passion for global awareness in the hearts of people that may never have considered such problems–such as the class of high school students that attended. When I talked to some of them, they seemed genuinely interested and if that’s the case, Zealot succeeds at getting people to take notice but they could have done so much more.
Ticket Info at the website:
Location & Dates :
South Coast Repertory
655 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
October 17, 2014 – November 16, 2014
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