Portland Center Stage’s world premiere production of The North Plan takes place in the not-so-distant-future. And that’s probably what makes it so extra-creepy and goose bump-inducing. The ripped-from-the-headlines idea that the revered U.S. Constitution could be thrown out so quickly and easily, under our very noses. Is it possible?
Yet, somehow, the show is also “a laugh riot.” Amidst such admittedly serious themes, Playwright Jason Wells manages to keep audiences rolling with laughter throughout the entire piece.
Here’s the plot: After a massive government breakdown, Carlton Berg, a bureaucrat for the State Department, runs off with the new regime’s top secret Enemies List – which contains the names of every American citizen slated to be rounded up by the new regime. Unfortunately for Carlton, the chase has come to an end in a police station in the small Ozark town of Lodus, Missouri. With a pair of DHS agents on the way, Carlton’s only hope is in the people around him: an unsympathetic police chief, an ambivalent administrative assistant, and fellow potty-mouthed prisoner Tanya Shepke.
So could such a breakdown and seemingly seamless regime changeover really happen? The rounding up of millions of “suspicious” American citizens?
Jason Wells participated in our annual JAW: A Playwrights Festival in the summer of 2010 with the workshopped reading of his newest play, The North Plan; a few ago, the production opened in its world premiere at PCS. After first hearing the play read more than a year and a half before, it was incredibly exciting to finally get to see the play’s characters, costumes and set fully materialize onstage.
Recently, we asked Jason about his inspiration for writing The North Plan.
“I had been thinking a lot about the hyperbolic political climate of recent years, and wondering how long it’s been since Americans have really had to think about what revolution means, or what tyranny really is. I sometimes hear that a political coup couldn’t happen here, for one reason or another, but I think those who say this are imagining something direct and unequivocal — a cartoon dictator, perhaps, with an evil army. But I think if we had such a coup, it would come clothed in a “re-interpreted” legality, and adorned with talking points. With the help of the media, it would be vague and confusing, at once oversimplified and riddled with impenetrable contradictions, and the great majority of us will be assured that there is nothing we need do but get on with our lives. Such a scenario seems not only possible to me, but plausible. It isn’t hard, unfortunately, to imagine the national tragedy that could ignite it.”
Come see The North Plan at Portland Center Stage, running through February 5. Tickets available here.