Review: POST-DEMOCRACY

by Lynn on April 9, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming until April 25 from Prairie Theatre Exchange.

By Hannah Moscovitch

Directed by Thomas Morgan Jones

Set, props, costumes by Brian Perchaluk

Lighting by Scott Henderson

Sound by jaymez

Filmed by Ice River Films

Cast: Alicia Johnston

Kristian Jordan

Arne MacPherson

Stephanie Sy

Observation: While this pandemic has closed our beloved theatres for in person playgoing, it has provided those resourceful theatre-makers with a chance to make their productions available digitally. I’m grateful to have seen digital productions from the National Theatre in London, various productions from the Dublin International Theater Festival, Under the Radar Festival in New York, Lincoln Center Theater productions, also in New York.  

But I’m happiest to be able to see so much from across Canada because of new technology.  Bravo to the Belfry in Victoria, B.C. for creating Being Here: The Refugee Project; the National Arts Centre in Ottawa for its Grand Acts of Theatre; The Stratford Festival for its @Home offerings of Up Close and Musical, Undiscovered Sonnets, Leer Estates and various archived productions; the many panels and smart readings from (Dinner á la Art—readings of Heartbreak House, Riot, She Stoops to Conquer) Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie, and Katharsis, Yvette Nolan’s wonderful ode to the theatrefrom the Prairie Theatre Exchange.  Prairie Theatre Exchange is also presenting Hannah Moscovitch’s new play Post-Democracy until April 25.  

A bristling examination of the murky world of big business when money seduces everybody and ethics and integrity are kicked to the curb, written by Hanna Moscovitch whose laser vison doesn’t miss a thing.

From the play information: “Welcome to the world of the 1%, the corporate elite, the “C-suite” – the “king-makers” whose influence flows through every aspect of our lives virtually unnoticed. When a CEO and his top executives are on a business trip for a major deal, a damaging sex scandal at the company is unearthed back home. As the pressure to complete the deal mounts, more secrets come to the surface, endangering the CEO’s company, his family, and his legacy. What happens to morality when human beings have limitless power?”

The Story. Bill is the CEO of a large company. Lee is his COO. Bill’s adopted daughter Justine, the company’s CFO, is also there, as is Shannon, a public relations person with the company. Lee is her boss and he’s attracted to her, although Bill has warned Lee about not giving into his urges with Shannon. They are in a poor South American city to sign a deal and buy a manufacturing company named Systemus. There is trouble at home. Bill keeps checking his cell-phone for information. It seems a Brand Manager has been sexually harassing or compromising his female assistants and the issue must be contained even though the press seems to know about it.

At the same time Bill learns that although Lee just arrived the evening before, he had sex with a young woman who was sent to his room, and who probably was underage. When this information is revealed, Lee doesn’t see any problem as it is a third world problem and the young woman was just a whore. Justine appears to have a moral compass. She does extensive charity work in Africa. She is aware of the toxic company culture and is intent on stopping it. To that end she wants her father Bill to fire Lee. Bill won’t do it for reasons that are eventually revealed. Justine is appeased in a way that is all too familiar in such cases. Everybody knows everybody’s secrets and either ignore them or use them for their own advantage later.

For Hannah Moscovitch to name the company they want to buy, Systemus, is Moscovitch winking at how close it is to the word “systemic’ which is how pervasive the rot is in Bill’s company and the company he wants to buy.  

The Production. Brian Perchaluk has designed a set that adheres to COVID protocols for safety for the cast.  There are three separate platforms on which the four characters will engage. When two actors have to be on one of the platforms at the same time, director Thomas Morgan Jones stages them so that a lot of space separates them, for the most part. The furnishings are minimal but suggest a high-end hotel. There is a large, black leather chair on the stage-left platform, a well-stocked drinks trolley on the middle platform and two padded benches on the stage-left and right platforms.

Scott Henderson’s lighting illuminates the bases of the platforms in many colours. It is both garish yet striking. Bill and Lee wear suits; Justine and Shannon wear form-fitting dresses and heels. They all dress for success and business.

Bill spends most of his time peering into his cell-phone checking e-mails and texts or replying to them, while Lee tries to get his attention. As Bill, Arne MacPherson is taciturn, watchful, and cool. It’s a nice touch from Thomas Morgan Jones to have Bill looking down at his phone, while Lee, played with barely concealed impatience by Kristian Jordan, waits. Bill called the meeting for 6:00 am and Lee has had a bad night. Lee is edgy, pushy, monosyllabic. He wrangles with Justine, played with moral outrage by Stephanie Sy, is insulting to her in front of Bill. It’s obvious Lee has no conscience. Rounding out the cast is Alicia Johnston as Shannon, a woman with a family history who should, one thinks, be receptive to protecting the women in the company from the predators such as the Brand Manager. But Alicia Johnston plays her with the grit and clinkered gaze of someone who goes after what she wants.

Hannah Moscovitch’s characters in Post-Democracy speak in blunt language. Lee’s dialogue is a sting of monosyllabic words that jolt out. These are people who don’t converse in paragraphs because their communication is generally from a cell-phone screen. At times the dialogue is reminiscent of David Mamet, but with Mamet his characters are inarticulate. With Moscovitch her characters are in a hurry for the deal and power and don’t have time for chit-chat.

Thomas Morgan Jones has created a cool, controlled production in which every gesture is a way of getting control over somebody else by keeping them waiting to speak, wanting someone to fire somebody else, and getting an edge.  

Comment. Hannah Moscovitch has written a devastating play in which she puts her laser perception and focus on the toxic culture in big business; where money is more important than morality; conscience, integrity and ethics are laughed at in favour of making a deal at all cost. Moscovitch so immerses you in this world you might want to take a shower after seeing it. The power of the play is that you will be thinking about it long after you see it, and you should see it.

Post-Democracy streams through Prairie Theatre Exchange until April 25.

For tickets click: https://www.pte.mb.ca/performances/Post-democracy

Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clare Henderson April 13, 2021 at 10:26 am

You never mention democracy or post democracy, the title. Where do these words enter into your interpretation of the play. Surely there is another level of and another purpose for this play.

Reply

2 Lynn April 13, 2021 at 10:25 pm

Hmmm Interesting question. I’m reviewing the play and not the title.
Often titles are provocative on their own. The mention that these
business people are coming into what they consider a third world, poor
city/country and they don’t care about morality, responsibility,
consequences of their actions is the issue. Hannah’s Title: “East of
Berlin” gave some context but that didn’t factor into my review of it.

Thanks for the question. Best, Lynn Slotkin

Reply

3 Sandra Yard April 15, 2021 at 2:59 pm

I really enjoyed Hannah Moscovitch’s play Post-Democracy and your review. As a Passionate Theatregoer, I pay attention to titles of plays, and character names with respect to multiplicity of issues, writer’s points of view, and layers of meaning. If you were to speak to the title Post-Democracy how would you relate it to the characters of the business people and your statement “consequences of their actions is the issue.” And, would you explain what you mean when you say “Often titles are provocative”.

Reply

4 Lynn April 15, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Thanks Sandra. Your two statements of concern were not in my review, but in the reply to the previous writer, but of course I will address them. As the info on the play indicates, the effect of the 1% ers on the world of the other 99% is pervasive. So perhaps Hannah is saying that in a democracy the majority rules, but in the world of big business it’s the 1% ers who rule (Post-Democracy). I can’t take “consequences of their actions is the issue” on its own without including the other two references: “they don’t care about morality, responsibility.” The actions and consequences of these immoral, greedy people is that they will always have power over the people they bully and overpower. There are no consequences initially, until they get caught, and I think they always get caught. If I let my imagination go crazy, I could imagine that now that Lee is the CEO he could get rid of Justine (Justice–Hannah M was being clear and ironic) and rule that company until he was caught and held to account….and the stock tanked.

As for titles of plays being provocative, I always think of Shakespeare and some of his titles. For example, Cymbeline is not about Cymbeline (that character is only in the play for 15 minutes.) All’s Well That Ends Well, doesn’t. There’s a lot of misery in that play. Shakespeare being ironic. I am mindful of titles but I don’t get stymied by them if I don’t know the author’s intent.

Much thanks.

Best,

Lynn Slotkin

Reply