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Glenda Frank


“This is not a time of peace” by Deb Margolin
Presented by New Light Theatre Project.
Directed by Jerry Heymann
Theatre Two, Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd St.
February 20 to March 16, 2024. Wed-Sat at 7:00 PM; Sun at 3:00 PM
Tickets $45-$35 at https://www.newlighttheaterproject.com. or (212) 714-2442.
100 minutes, no intermission.

In the center of the stage is a bed – the marital bed where Aline’s husband (Simon Feil) falls asleep when she talks, and the rough and tumble adulterous bed, where no one falls asleep. “This Is Not a Time of Peace” by Deb Margolin, founding member of Split Britches Theatre Company, now playing on Theatre Row, is about guilt: Alina’s guilt for betraying her husband whom she claims to love, and her father’s supposed betrayal of his country. The strands are interwoven but throughout and even after I left the theatre, I wasn’t sure what the playwright wanted audiences to understand. How is the betrayal of an indifferent husband by a negligent wife comparable to sharing state secrets with a rival country?

Frank Licato as Adolf Berle, Roger Hendricks Simon as Hillel. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Hillel (Roger Hendricks Simon), Alina’s father, is in a nursing home, refusing to eat and drink, and suffering from vague, disturbing memories of his ordeal before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Hillel had been a well-respected metallurgist, working on a new titanium alloy in the manufacture of airplane parts. His international activities, especially his friendship with Daniil Shinyayev (Richard Hollis), a Russian scientist, made him a person of interest to McCarthy, the senator who was making his name by routing out suspected foreign agents. Alina is trying to sort through the past to understand the family trauma of being blacklisted. Hillel seems incapable of creating a cogent narrative.

But Alina’s possessive lover (a buff Ken King) comes to the rescue with classified documents about the trial, documents she had been trying to obtain. She brings them to her father, but he is lost in his personal experiences, especially with Shinyayev, who pressured him for secrets.

Ken King as Martin, Charlotte Cohn as Alina. Photo by Steven Pisano.

“This Is Not a Time of Peace” is more story theatre than drama, a patchwork of scenes and monologues, ranging from the 1950 flashbacks to 2020 encounters. On stage are McCarthy and Adolf Berle, a prominent lawyer who defended Hillel. As played by Steven Rattazzi, McCarthy’s speeches (a verbatim rendering from McCarthy’s presentation on February 9th, 1950 in Wheeling, West Virginia) offer the most compelling moments in the play, which tilts the dramatic balance. Berle (Frank Licato), his counterpoint, has a moral argument, that everyone deserves the right to work, but he feels overmatched by the senator.

Steven Rattazzi as Joseph McCarthy. Photo by Steven Pisano.

According to program notes, the story is personal. Margolin’s father lost his security clearance after a HUAC investigation, where he was defended by Berle. Aline tells us that the trauma is epigenetic, a heritable change from environmental factors that does not alter the DNA. Aline tells us, “The trauma is mine now.”

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