Recommended Theater: HEROES OF THE FOURTH TURNING (Rogue Machine at The Matrix Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on August 19, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles


Days after the white-supremacist riot in Charlottesville, four old friends gather for a reunion at their conservative Catholic alma mater in Wyoming. The four young conservatives have gathered at a backyard after-party to toast their mentor Gina, newly inducted as president of a tiny Catholic college. But as their reunion spirals into spiritual chaos and clashing generational politics, it becomes less a celebration than a vicious fight to be understood. On a chilly night in the middle of America, Will Arbery’s haunting play offers grace and disarming clarity, speaking to the heart of a country at war with itself. It’s a brilliant, impassioned, uncritical, taut political drama about conservative, evangelical America.

Evangeline Edwards, Samuel Garnett, Stephen Tyler Howell

Now, Rogue Machine‘s Los Angeles Premiere of Heroes of the Fourth Turning — a riveting and witty play which speaks to the heart of a country at war with itself — opens tonight at 8pm on Saturday, August 19th and runs at 8pm Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays, 3pm Sundays through October 2, 2023.

Evangeline Edwards and Samuel Garnett

I saw this amazing work at San Francisco Playhouse, and was stunned. One of the best new plays to come down the pike in years, Arbery’s considered 150-minute one-act may seem to some a level-headed treatise on what it means to be a conservative in the age of Trump. Yet unlike most issue plays of our age, the universalisms here elevate the arguments about abortion, gays, and war. We’ve heard debates, pro and con, ad infinitum since the Reagan years (you’ll hear names of modern mass-media pundits here as well, such as Steve Bannon and Pat Buchanan). While characters may debate the role of conservatism in their lives, this is a play about people who are trying to make sense of the system into which they were born: Christian Conservatism in America. These happen to be Catholics, yes, but they do grapple with their choices (one character states that he vomited after voting for Trump).

Directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos the cast is Evangeline Edwards as Teresa; Samuel Garnett as Kevin; Stephen Tyler Howell as Justin; and Emily James as Emily, and Tony and Drama Desk Award nominee Roxanne Hart as Gina.

Emily James, Stephen Tyler Howell, Roxanne Hart,
Evangeline Edwards, and Samuel Garnett

What could easily have been a bloviating political tirade against liberals becomes — with the aid of magical realism and the possibility that possession lurks within us all — a truly thoughtful dialogue of four soul-searching Christians in the middle of our Fourth Turning. This titular reference is part of the Strauss–Howe theory, which states that there is a recurring generation cycle in American and global history. It is a miracle of Arbery’s genius character sketches and relentless dialogue that we find ourselves sympathizing with these well-spoken young people. A searing, vital, important play about ideological divides, even on the same “side.” Do not miss!

Evangeline Edwards and Samuel Garnett

photos by John Perrin Flynn

Heroes of the Fourth Turning
Rogue Machine
Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Avenue
Fri, Sat, and Mon at 8; Sun at 3
ends on October 2, 2023
for tickets, visit Rogue Machine

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