Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People

Jan. 12—Feb. 3 $25–$45
Theater J
1529 16th St. NW, Washington, DC
(202) 777-3210
The difference between art and an op-ed is thrown into sharp, unflattering relief in Theater J’s production of Boaz Gaon and Nir Erez’s Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People, an Israeli update of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 indictment of the fickle nature of public opinions. Boged concerns a P.R. battle over responsibility for toxic runoff in the Negev desert. Only (we’re told) with the help of rich companies like Ekstein Industries—a fictitious stand-in for the manufacturers whose plants occupy Isreal’s real-life Ramat Hovav Industrial Park—can the government muster the resources to make the desert inhabitable. When Tommy Doany, a professor of some unspecified science, finds evidence that pollutants from factories have seeped into the groundwater, he tries to go public but those around him quickly discredit him. But the fundamental tragedy Ibsen observed 130-odd years ago still rings true: Even when the facts are on your side, you still have to come up with a disarming or amusing way to deliver your message. Tommy fails not because he’s wrong, but because he doesn’t think he needs to engage his opponents in the language of the media. In other words, being right doesn’t free you of the obligation to be captivating. (CK)

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