Veritas, currently presented by the Representatives at St. George’s church, may be the strongest production yet by this adventurous…and prolific…young company. The play is an exploration of Harvard’s infamous Secret Court of 1920, which brutally sought to purge the campus of homosexuals. Ironically, given the subject matter, this may be one of the straightest of recent productions, at least in terms of story telling. Although, as a Stan Richardson play, the third act can’t resist a step into post modern magical realism and a self directed poke at meta-theatrics.
Part of what makes Reps’ productions so effective is their critical attention to detail, shaping your whole experience. From the moment you enter into the church basement, you are drawn into a world. Nooks and crannies are carefully decorated, framed photographs of the young men of the play fill niches and are carefully placed on tables. You could easily be in a Gothic dorm at Harvard or a period sitting room.
As you are led to the holding area, you are handed a card with a photo of one of the characters and handed a cup of wine. By the time your character leads you to your seat in the room where the play begins, and enters into brief conversation, you have been led into a specific place and time, a unique subculture, a world has been created for these characters to live in, complete with music. As well as Stan usually captures the textures and nuances of contemporary New York City, he has done so with 1920’s Cambridge.
It would be pointless to try and single out any cast member in a well realized ensemble where each has his own moment to shine and where each creates a character you can believe in and care about. You very easily pick up the fear and anxiety that fills their lives as the potential reality, loss of their special status as Harvard men, and perhaps loss of any status whatsoever begins to sink in.
As important as it is to lift up this moment in Harvard’s history, I began to experience a deeper feeling during the interrogation sequences. The emotions of these students, the pressure to confess, to possibly indict others in the desperate hope of saving oneself, could just as easily be people called to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, Occupiers called in to Homeland Security or even Palestinians brought in for questioning by the Shin Bet. It’s a sign of art well done to take you through the specific to the more universal.
Finally, there was one moment when two men on the edge of becoming lovers are slowly surrounded by the rest of the cast, circling, while singing the number one hit of 1919, 'Til We Meet Again... in harmony, accompanied by ukulele, guitar and banjo. Circling in ever increasing intensity. That one moment may have been the single best realized moment of theatre I have seen this year by any company in any production. The audience must have felt that way as well as it burst into spontaneous applause at it’s conclusion, the only time that happened.
Of all Stan Richardson’s plays, Veritas may have the best possibility of being produced by university or resident theatre companies.
Congratulations, Representatives. Can’t wait to see what happens next….