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At Subversive, an 80-year-old warning still resonates today

There was never much doubt that the members of the Subversive Theatre Collective would be part of the Resistance. It's also not surprising that they have so much fun doing it.

The company's season opener, "It Can't Happen Here," could come with the subtitle "Oh yes, it can!" as it takes on the current state of politics here and around the world. But especially here.

The show is from a 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel that was intended as a warning when fascism was sweeping across Europe. Berkeley Rep in California adapted the play to more recent times during the 2016 election season, and Subversive, with even more material to draw from (can you say "covfefe?") has made its own tweaks.

The result is a dark, comic, entertaining mess of ideas and characters, with 13 cast members of all ages trying to figure out how to respond to the rising political threat – or the new hope, depending on their viewpoint – that is taking over the country.

Even more than usual, the audience joins in on the show, following cue cards and hearing from the actors as they casually speak through the fourth wall to explain what's new and what lines are eerily prophetic from eight decades ago. Frankly, if this isn't a topic you want to chime in on, the show isn't for you.

Dennis Keefe centers the show as a small-town newspaper editor who can't keep quiet about what is happening around him and pays the price. Chris Standart anchors the play's emotional and comic content, as a wife, a bishop and an officer.

The enthusiastic company is still working out a few bumps, and at our show some of the dialogue was hard to hear, but let's face it: as recent events have shown us, crises, whether political or natural, do not arrive perfectly polished and choreographed. But someone has to deal with them.


"It Can't Happen Here"

2.5 stars (out of four)

A timely reworking of Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel warning about the rise of fascism. At Subversive Theatre, 255 Great Arrow Ave., through Oct. 7;

Raising the curtain on the 2017-18 theater season

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