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The Sons of Lincoln

Larry Gold's searing new drama is reviewed by Laura Luna.

In today's society, we are continually reminded of the shortcomings of the leadership entrusted to guide our youth into adulthood. From incessant gang violence, to tragedies such as the Columbine massacre, children today seem lost in a world so focused upon monetary success and creature comforts that it forgets to nurture its young. Many parents lack the ability to provide the compassion and attention that young people require in a world where they are easily misguided. Ultimately, these troubled children look elsewhere for a sense of security and acceptance. Some survive against painful odds to become upstanding members of society; but far too many become entangled in a web of deceit and cruelty that is beyond their realm of comprehension.

The Sons of Lincoln, a searing new drama by playwright Larry Gold, examines the predatory nature of a white supremacy group leader who targets unwanted youth. Lincoln, a high school administrator, runs "The Corporate Coalition of True White America" out of his basement, recruiting young and vulnerable students in need of a home and a sense of identity.

Played by Bill Fagerbakke of TV's Coach, Lincoln creates a safe environment for these young boys, all of whom suffered in various ways. They are eager to please the handsome, charismatic authority figure who offers them a place to call home and a map by which to live. Lincoln, a political climber, uses his young recruits to promote his platform. He believes he is continuing the work of his namesake, Abraham Lincoln. He redefines racist language, making it palatable to the youths (though not to the audience, by any stretch) and giving them a sense of superiority.

Gold's electrifying play fills the theater with the kind of palpable tension that is only found in a live forum. The dramatic arc of the script is interspersed with flashbacks that give us insight as to what led the members of Lincoln's entourage to their present circumstance. Despite the rank ideology personified by these boys, there is a tenderness that makes each of them entirely human.

The performances lift the script to its highest potential. Lawrence Monson's Dante fills the stage with the energy of unabashed fury, his anger is beautifully married to a youthful exuberance. Chad Allen's Floss is sharply drawn; the actor brings a deft, multi-leveled approach to the character and pulls the audiences heartstrings with his deeply moving performance. As Skull, Jonathan Avildsen is remarkably charming, given the despicable nature of some of his dialogue and the sad, unnerving reality that this character is drowning in his own ignorance. Tony Colitti as Pinch, perhaps the saddest and most complex of the boys, makes well defined acting choices and displays a depth to the character that is revealed to the audience in small, calculated increments. And Bill Fagerbakke deserves special praise for embodying Lincoln with a subtlety and charm that befits a politician--the kind of persona that enables the character to manipulate even those he despises most.

Director Valerie Landsburg manages to keep the lid on the pressure cooker until the moment it bursts. This play is a freight train headed off its tracks, but the chaos is controlled, leaving the audience with a true theatrical experience--and a strong message, to boot.

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