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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Banned and Burned in America
By Laura Hitchcock

The Greenway Court Theatre puts its stamp on Banned Books Week with Banned and Burned in America, a well-structured and vividly dramatic dissection of the controversial issues that confront librarians and libraries everywhere. Book-ended by the imprisonment of a librarian for deleting records of book borrowers which John Ashcroft's administration requested, the play dramatizes scenes from four disputed books complemented by scenes of their effects on students and their families.

Annie On My Mind is a portrayal of teen lesbian romance. Angry parents' groups declare sexuality is something students should learn from them, while students find a sympathetic explanation for unexpressed feelings. To Kill A Mockingbird is attacked by an African-American parent who objects to the word nigger, among other things. Maya Angelou's autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings brings down the wrath of a mother for passages about the sexual abuse of a minor but results in her throwing out her leach of a boyfriend. Johnny Get Your Gun, about the hideous crippling of a young soldier, is the only depiction which doesn't have an accompanying reactive playlet. Maybe this book about the vicious consequences of war strikes too close to home today even for a courageous theatre company.

Although the press release states the play presents questions, not answers, the overall point of view is one of academic freedom and support for the reader's privacy. However, the play is weakened when the lawyer who interrogates the librarian is presented as a one-dimensional cretin and not permitted to present his reasons.

Ayana Cahrr's dynamic direction makes the most of the values in the script penned and assembled by Bryan Davidson and Kim Dunbar. Victoria Bellocq's multi-functional set design utilizes the natural assets of The Greenway Court Theatre, one of the most beautiful small spaces in town. The different scenes are helpfully highlighted by another of Jeremy Pivnick's astute lighting designs.

The large cast is uniformly solid, with multiple roles and uncertain crediting making it difficult to discuss in detail. Notable performances in some major roles were Isaac Bright as Joe in Johnny Get Your Gun and a punk high school student in To Kill A Mockingbird; Mary Cobb; Edythe Davis; Donovan Knowles as Derik and Tom; Kiersten Morgan as high school student Rebecca and Scout in Mockingbird; Tara Platt as Annie.

Press notes maintain the play does not answer questions but is a jumping-off place to consider the issues raised. That's either an easy or a canny way to end most of the scenes. One of its strengths is that rebuttals do spring to mind for almost every point made.

Playwright:Bryan Davidson and Kim Dunbar
Director: Ayana Cahrr
Cast: Pierson Blaetz (Ray, Ronald McDonald, Mr. Birkman), Issac Bright (Joe, Julius, Will, Sambo), Jon Caligiuri (Travis. Jem, Kevin, Guy), Gary Carter (Atticus, Joe's Father, Beckman), Mary Cobb (Mrs. Helms, Mrs. Kenny, Ms. Gregg, Mrs. Cromwell), Edythe Davis (Grandmother Baker, Mrs. Flowers, Ms. Taylor), David Haley (Rodrigo, Mr. Freeman, Mr. O'Brien, Josh), Diana Elizabeth Jordan (Poppie Sue, Dalicia, Surgeon), Donovan Knowles (Bily, Donny, Derik, Tom), Penelope Lowder (Claire, Mrs. Dickinson, Mama), Kiersten Morgan (Rebecca, Scout, Olivia), Annette Murphy (Christina, Charlotte, Mrs. Ayala), Amy Munroe Peterson (Liza, Jennifer, Mayella, Nurse), Tara Platt (Annie, Stevie, Sydney, Kareen), Tangelia Nichole Rouse (Marguerite, Sylvia).
Set Design: Victoria Bellocq
Lighting Design: Jeremy Pivnick
Costume Design: Naila Aladdin-Sanders
Original Music: Robert F. Trucios
Running Time: Two hours with one ten-minute intermission
Running Dates: September 26-November 1, 2003.
Where: Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, Ph: (323) 655-7679 x 100.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on September 27.
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