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Theater Review: “The North Plan”

Daren Scott & Samantha Ginn
Photo credit:
Courtesy: ion theatre

If you ever feared a hostile takeover of the U.S. government, a viewing of ion theatre’s latest offering – Jason Wells’ “The North Plan” – will ease your mind and tickle your funny bone on the way to horrifying you.

U.S. State Department functionary Carlton Berg (a hilariously sincere and harried Daren Scott), on the run from a rogue fringe element that has taken control of the U.S. government and declared martial law, has a laptop and a flash drive containing the insurgents’ Enemies List – thousands of names of American citizens who are deemed dangerous to the fringies and are to be rounded up for detention and who-knows what-all else.

Carlton is trying to get this information to the only reporter he trusts (in Houston) but instead finds himself trapped in a police holding cell in way-out-of-the-way Lodus, Missouri, unable to get Chief Swenson (Don Loper) to listen.

Cooped up with him is Samantha Ginn, whose earthy, hang-it-all-out-there portrayal of local gal Tanya (complete with a plethora of f-bombs) presents a hilarious contrast to Carlton’s don’t-you-get-how-serious-this-is demeanor. 

Tanya has her own story. She turned herself in for drunk driving and is seriously ticked that not only did the cops not congratulate her for good citizenship, but they have the nerve to hold her on an outstanding warrant.

Neither of them is capable of silence, but it’s Tanya’s motormouth that is driving Shonda (Tina Machele Brown) – a paper shuffler pressed into service as a guard – crazy with her demands to be released if not congratulated.

“I was locked up for 15 years,” Shonda counters. “It’s called East St. Louis.”

Shonda, attempting to read a book, is also trying to listen in on the conversation next door, in which the Chief is trying to deal with Homeland Security officers Dale Pittman (Jake Rosko) and Bob Lee (Fred Hunting), who want that flash drive.

Carlton manages to convince Tanya of the nefarious plan afoot (especially after he offers to pay her to get it to the reporter), and tells her where the flash drive is. With that, we’re off and running.

The second act devolves into a sort of gang-that-can’t-shoot-straight dark farce, with Swenson refusing to give Pittman and Lee the computer without a writ from a judge, Tanya acting even crazier, people rushing in and out and a humdinger of an ending.

Rosko and Hunting are a hoot as the armed and dangerous heavies from Homeland Security, soft-spoken Lee especially inspiring giggles when he complains to brash Pittman about getting no credit for his work, not even a mention as a member of the “team.”

The play’s title refers to Col. Oliver North (of Iran-Contra scandal infamy), who reportedly worked on just such a plan (called Rex 84) in the Reagan ’80s. The “enemies” would be dissidents declared security threats. The plan was revealed during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Director Isaac Fowler and his team play it straight at the beginning, but as the hinges start to fall off in the second act, the farce begins to show through. It’s an interesting experience, well played all around. 

“The North Plan,” which premiered in 2012 at Chicago’s Steppenwolf, is an odd bird, combining comedy with conspiracy in a plot that almost seems familiar today. If it seems to go a bit far out on a limb in the second act, well, welcome to Politics 101.

The details

“The North Plan” plays through September 9, 2017 at ion theatre’s BLKBOX, 3704 Sixth Avenue in Hillcrest.

Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm. 

Tickets: (619) 600-5020 or www.iontheatre.com