Edmund White's play Terre Haute is coming to its namesake city. The Crossroads Repertory Theatre production is a taut, accomplished and involving performance, directed by Dale McFadden.
In The Days Before 'Dead Man Walking'
The two characters are modeled on the Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in the federal prison in Terre Haute, and the writer and critic Gore Vidal. The drama presents Vidal visiting McVeigh during the days before his execution. (In fact, although Vidal did express sympathy and they communicated in letters, the two never did meet.)
Mark Douglas-Jones plays the journalist who's just come back from a self-imposed exile in Paris to learn the McVeigh character's story. He's an aged, wily writer who becomes caught up in the bomber's story despite his best attempts at keeping his professional distance. Douglas-Jones has his character down pat; he never misses a beat.
Drew Hampton plays the character based on McVeigh. In Edmund White's characterization, he's an all-American boy; Hampton delivers. Part of the mystery of Terre Haute is just how normal the McVeigh figure seems to be. Nothing about him seems in any way abnormal, except perhaps his belief in an international conspiracy, and his mad fixation on phrases like "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with blood." He was and, in the play, remains a mystery.
A Cage Match
As the Vidal and the McVeigh character spar, Douglas-Jones circles Hampton, who's caged in by Linda Janosko's evocative set. As one orbits the other, they enter a second story. The journalist's touching series of revelations recall a young lover, whom he identifies with the young man. As it works out, real tensions develop. The drama wraps with a strange and touching moment between the two men.