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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Greenwash
Orange Tree Theatre Spring 2009

David Lewis's play is an American political satire whose politics don't get in the way of the fun and a knockabout farce whose pauses to discuss serious issues don't significantly interrupt its headlong rush into comic silliness. The gears do grind every once in a while, as it shifts from one mode to the other, but you'll hardly notice, since both halves are so good.

A group of people gather to plan an intervention for an alcoholic friend. It soon becomes clear that they're going to have trouble focussing on the issue at hand, because they all have distracting issues with each other.

Sexual tensions, sexual rivalries, career concerns and hidden secrets mean that any two people left alone onstage are likely to clash - and if they're not alone, the others, who may not know their whole story, are perplexed and distracted by the side issues.

Meanwhile, our host is a compulsive neatnik who freaks out whenever someone moves something out of place, there's an offstage child hysterical over a lost toy, and the object of the intervention was lured here on the pretext of a children's party and arrives dressed as a clown.

So there's a lot of rushing about, a lot of trying to keep the wrong people apart, a lot of conversations interrupted because someone wants to fight over something else. And there's a whipped-cream-covered cake sitting on the table, just biding its time.

Meanwhile, there's the political play. One character is involved with Big Oil, and somewhat to the right of George Bush, while another is an environmental activist. One is a former investigative reporter exiled to the celebrity beat, while our host is a spin-doctor-for-hire, whose accomplishments include both setting up fake conservation groups that are actually oil company fronts and promoting all the false justifications for the Iraq war.

And so, in between the pie and the clown and the rushing about and the frozen teddy bear down the trousers (Don't ask), we get a lot of sharp debate and satire on politics, particularly the role of opinion manipulation and outright lying in modern business and statecraft.

You've got to love a play that includes exchanges like 'I didn't go into politics to lie to people' - 'Were you misinformed?' and 'You don't believe in freedom and democracy?' - 'Yes, I do, but I like the American system better.'

Sam Walters directs with a fluid ease that keeps things from ever getting bogged down, either in debate or in silliness, and a strong cast led by Jonathan Guy Lewis as the host, Richard Attlee as the reporter and Amanda Royle as the right-winger are all first-rate.

Ultimately there might be a bit too much talk for the farce, or a bit too much farce for the talk, and 15 minutes or so of cutting could only have helped things. But if you like to laugh and think in roughly equal proportions, you couldn't do too much better.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Greenwash - Orange Tree 2009