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Politics As Usual : Zealot @ South Coast Repetory in Costa Mesa – Review

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

Political intrigue has the potential to be complicated and fascinating. What 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 genuine 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.

Alan Smyth in South Coast Rep

Alan Smyth in South Coast Rep

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 governments interfere with the workings of another nation? How does one genuinely know the guilt of another? And are we 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 characters’ struggles 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 the Saudi government targets as an instigator and infidel. Her shy demeanor and quiet strength come across, but her character remains stagnant throughout the performance.

The show addresses some valid points and might create a passion for global awareness in the hearts of people who may never have considered such problems–such as the 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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