Sunday, January 19, 2003

Cherry Docs (Jewish Community Center)

'CHERRY DOCS' examines hate at the Halle

The lights come up on a representation of the scales of justice. Each side of the scale looks like a prison...bars pointing to the ceiling encircling a confining platform. In each area we will soon meet and experience two men who are very alike, and very different. The combatants are a skinhead perpetrator of a vile hate crime (Mike) and his Jewish legal-aid lawyer (Danny). Two men who are troubled by their pasts and have different paths to their futures. We will observe them going through belief changes. We will see them, as one of the lines states, “go through the eye of the needle.”

The play? David Gow’s CHERRY DOCS. The place? The Halle Theatre.
The title? Cherry Docs are red colored sturdy shoes with steel covered toes that are so endangering that they can kick though a wall. They are the “boot of choice” for the Nazi-attitude group known as skinheads.

On the surface the play concerns murder and hate. It uses the analogy of life being a fabric made from threads to tie the themes together. That analogy allows us to see how Danny’s liberalness and spirituality become woven into his latent prejudices and ambitions. As these threads weave together he begins to crumble. On the other-hand, the punk, who once said to his lawyer, "In an ideal world I'd see you eliminated," comes to realize that his cloth of evil must become a fabric that includes tolerance.

Many of the speeches are direct addresses to the audience, making us participants in Danny’s insistence that the young offender helps construct his own defense in order to "stand up" and be accountable. It also allows us to be involved in their personal transitions. We share in the epilogue, a cutting from The Book of Daniel, which proposes that like Daniel the world must reach toward righteousness.

Reuben Silver’s direction is on-target. He has taken the play from staged reading last year to a full-blown production. This was a real challenge. The play has little action, is basically a duet of words, and sometimes is too talky, complete with three epilogues. To make it an involving experience took inspiration.

Scott Plate, complete with shaved head and body tatoos, is unbelievably good as the skin-head. He creates a character the audience must hate, yet by the conclusion, comes to understand.

Joel Hammer’s Danny is involving , but, at times, his rage lacks motivation, sometimes caused by the weakness of the script.

Tony Kovacic’s scene design is excellent, as are Casey Jones’ musical interludes which transition moods clearly from scene to scene.

Capsule judgment: CHERRY DOCS asks a simple, but harrowing, question: Can we eliminate hate? Though the play doesn’t answer the unanswerable question, it does make us think.