Last I checked, we were supposed to be heading towards a new Golden Age of Civility in which everyone will respect each other’s views, police their own side’s misbehavior, and, above all, make sure to never, ever, ever say anything that could possibly be misconstrued as a call to violence. Well, apparently some lefties in Madison, Wisconsin didn’t get the memo; the Mercury Players Theater is putting on a play about a group of young leftists who decide to start murdering conservatives—and not metaphorically:
Five lefty graduate students in Iowa City gather for weekly dinners to revel in their shared (and sometimes smug) world view. The first dinner we witness ignites a surprising shared mission when one of the students invites the truck driver who offered him roadside assistance to join them. This young man, a patriotic Desert Storm vet, first startles the group when he insists on saying grace before the vegan meal and then goes on to praise Hitler, alarming and repulsing the other dinners. Threats and violence ensue, and one of the hosts stabs him.
As he lies bleeding on an area rug, the quintet, after some debate and initial hand-wringing, decide that they have done society a favor by eliminating him and silencing his dangerous words. They also decide that since participating in protests and sit-ins has been a futile way to fight the power, this new dinner party/murder method may be a more effective technique in coping with right-wing adversaries.
Soon a parade of special guests is invited to dine, and when their dinner conversation proves repellent, they are given poisoned wine and buried in the backyard. Our smarty-pants grad students toast themselves for making a difference each time and feel vindicated when they learn that their first victim, the trucker, was implicated in a heinous crime.
Things come to a head when their final guest, an infamous right-wing talk show host, turns out to not fit the stereotype they expected, leading four of the five to regret their killing spree. The apparent moral of the story, that killing people over differing views is wrong, is also the defense for its shocking subject matter:
“By the end of the play, everyone turns such a corner and you realize how devastating it really is to go down that path,” said [director Doug] Holtz.
The audience seems to concur, with some saying the play jabs at extremists on both sides of the aisle.
“I think it plays on both sides,” said audience member Heather Stotts. “I think it’s obvious this is a show that pokes fun at liberals as well as conservatives.”
Okay, fine. The play isn’t telling people to go kill conservatives. But Sarah Palin wasn’t telling Republicans to kill Democrats, either, and according to our liberal betters, that didn’t matter—the very use of violent imagery in the context of political opposition was allegedly enough to put the idea into people’s heads. If you believe that inflammatory rhetoric is culpable for violent acts (which I don’t), how is this any different? What’s to stop some unhinged theatergoer from walking away thinking, maybe those guys had it right the first time…? As Dan Riehl points out, the theater’s artistic director, Rachel Jerkins-Bledsoe, suggests that watching evil right-wingers get what’s coming to them onstage is a good way for angry liberals to let off some steam:
If you have felt helpless and unheard through the outrage of our own culture right now – through Arizona, through the Tea Party, through Madison’s own political turn – then this is the show for you!