Theater Review: FATHERLAND (Fountain Theatre)

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by Christopher Lloyd Bratten on March 2, 2024

in Theater-Los Angeles


Over 2,000 people stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Within two years, more than 1,200 attackers would be charged. One such perpetrator, Guy Reffitt from Texas, was convicted and sentenced to seven years in federal prison. Who handed him over to the FBI? His 19-year-old son, Jackson.

Patrick Keleher and Ron Bottitta

Fatherland, based on this true story, is at once a courtroom thriller and a family drama with shades of political documentary. It centers on Jackson Reffitt’s testimony against his father in 2022. Every word of the script was pulled from court records and public statements and deftly woven into a gripping narrative by conceiver/director Stephen Sachs, who calls his piece “a shout of warning in this election year”.

Anna Khaja and Ron Bottitta

Knowing these are the actual words of living people involved in the very real and recent attack on the Capitol keeps viewers in a state of visceral angst and alertness. We all remember that day. But the play does not take a hard stance toward this extremely divisive and radioactive subject matter, which is a smart move because leaning in one direction or the other would likely have come off as browbeating and self-serving. The father and son roles stand as proxies for the right and left factions of current American society, and each is fairly humanized. Depending on where you stand along the political spectrum, you’ll likely find sympathy with your affiliated character. You may even find sympathy with the other side.

Larry Poindexter and Anna Khaja

Fatherland offers a glimpse into the intimate worlds of two individuals who got carried away by a powerful current of sociopolitical forces, who were lured into a battle of crushing proportion, and who ended up ravaged by a tragic series of decisions and circumstances. Beneath the surface of these two political pawns are just a dad and his kid who can’t seem to figure out how to connect, how to love each other. In a span of 80 minutes, we witness the juxtaposition of a single family and an entire country being needlessly torn apart, and we discover that the reasons for each are the same.

Anna Khaja, Patrick Keleher, Ron Bottitta, Larry Poindexter

The design of the play — set (Joel Daavid), lights (Alison Brummer), sound (Stewart Blackwood), costumes (Danyele Thomas), and props (Jenine MacDonald) — is effectively simple, serving as a minimalist canvas for the actors. Patrick Keleher and Ron Bottitta play the son and father, respectively. They are flanked by two lawyers, Anna Khaja (prosecution) and Larry Poindexter (defense).

Patrick Keleher

The son is the axis around which the whole drama turns, and Keleher delivers a dynamic and nuanced, although slightly sophomoric, performance as the key witness. Bottitta, a standout in the cast, injects the play with a healthy and welcome dose of grit, depth, and levity. Khaja’s solid but formulaic depiction of an attorney tethers the piece to the courtroom as the father-son dynamic unspools through a series of flashbacks. Poindexter’s performance was arresting and dialed in though, unfortunately, shaky at times with the lines.

Ron Bottitta

The Fountain is a modest theatre and, production-wise, expectations were wisely and appropriately managed. This is not a bells-and-whistles show. The house and budget are small. However, the four actors, the dialogue, the story — these are the main selling points. And despite their imperfections, they are worth the ticket price. This is a show that audience members will enjoy, learn from, and perhaps even be moved by.

Anna Khaja

Fatherland is a timely subject, an imaginative concept, a cleverly crafted piece, and a well-executed performance. It’s not a perfect production, but it’s a worthy one. What comes shining through is heart, something small theatre could not exist without.

photos by Jenny Graham

[Editor’s Note: After thirty-four years, Sachs is retiring as Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre by the end of this year.]

Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave.
Fri, Sat & Mon at 8; Sun at 2; Thurs at 8 (April 11 only)
ends on March 30, 2024 EXTENDED to May 26, 2024
some performances are dark; check performance dates
for tickets ($25 – $45), call 323.663.1525 or visit Fountain Theatre
pay-what-you-want and regular seating is available Mondays

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