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God's Country

In 1984, Alan Berg, an abrasively liberal Denver talk show host was gunned down by a quartet of members of an anti-Semitic right wing group called "The Order." Eventually, they were caught and tried. Ironically, they weren't brought up on murder charges. They were convicted of abridging Berg's civil rights.

Playwright Steven Dietz has dug deep into the background and the hate groups involved to create "God's Country." It's a docudrama about the emotions and the mentality of the people and the organizations involved. "God's Country" is at IU's T-300 in a production directed by Rick Fonte with design by Mark Frederick Smith, costumes by Staci Kern and lighting by Laura Dowling.

Dietz play is a whirlwind of characters, plot and information about the right wing groups in the northwest in the 1980s. He cuts a wide swath and demands an awful lot of attention from the audience. Frankly, I think he's overwritten and could use a good editor to help with focus, but the T-300 production does an impressive run with the material. The actors are all varied and interesting. The staging of the many, many mini scenes is neatly worked out. Sometimes I wished for more variety of pace and tension, but the energy never flags and the cumulative result is impressive.

"God's Country" is done with a staging that is thrust into the audience and that pretty much describes the tenor of the production. The thirteen actors play dozens of parts and they play them in front of, on the sides of and even in the midst of the audience. Sometimes the audience is a jury, sometimes just spectators and sometimes a potential group of right wing converts. Actors speak directly to the audience, exhort them and even harangue them. If you feel that traditional play staging leaves you a bit out of things, too far away from the action and somewhat divorced from a show's passion, this production is for you.

"God's Country" at T-300 plays each evening this week through Saturday. Showtime is seven o'clock and there is a Saturday matinee at two.

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