With Trump’s rhetoric as a muse, ‘Building the Wall’ reveals some construction defects

Mondays, through May 21.Where: Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles.Tickets: $15-$35 (avoid sitting at house right, where sightlines may be impeded).Suitability: Teens and adults for intense subject matter.Length: 90 minutes.Information: 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com. ★★&#x2605When: 8 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m.

Schenkkan postulates our nation in 2019. Trump’s notions of curtailing immigration and deporting immigrants have become fully fledged policies and then grown monstrous.And as always seems to happen, a hardworking family man, ultimately responsible for horrific deaths in the tens of thousands, was only following orders.We meet this man, Rick (Bo Foxworth), after he has been tried and convicted and sits in a Texas prison, apparently awaiting a death sentence. A history professor, Gloria (Judith Moreland), is prepared to interview him, to hear the story his lawyers didn’t let him tell during his trial. Here it packs punch after punch.
Moreland is softer and less confident, and Foxworth brighter and more introspective, than they could have been in stereotypical portrayals of their “types.”But Schenkkan took an easy way out, putting an interviewer in an interrogation room for the purpose of prompting the prisoner to tell his story. Michael Michetti directs. In the playwright’s haste, he gave Gloria such ungainly lines as “What did they say?” and “What did you say?” He maintains suspense yet keeps the interview relatively balanced, even between this academic woman and the Southern, squarely blue-collar man who was squeezed up the ranks.Under Michetti’s helmsmanship, the characters are multidimensional.
Unlike other plays that are about a real-life person but speak metaphorically or use a pseudonym, “Building the Wall” refers to Donald Trump by name and by policy.This 90-minute work, by Robert Schenkkan (“The Kentucky Cycle,” “All the Way,” “Hacksaw Ridge”), hides behind nothing.Though Schenkkan is a Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright, his premiere of this work is at Hollywood’s tiny but mighty Fountain Theatre, which repeatedly attracts world-renowned playwrights. The current collaboration resulted from friendships and fleet-footedness. Schenkkan reportedly wanted the piece on the boards quickly, having written it in one week, and artistic director Stephen Sachs at the Fountain was able to provide the time slot as well as a superb slate of designers.
He served his country honorably in the Army, then went into private-prison management, where Trump spotted him and asked him to head detentions that would lead to deportations. That’s the audience’s first clue that this work may need a firm-handed rewrite. The politics and logistics involved are the subjects of Schenkkan’s storytelling, as they head down a dark, dangerous and strikingly familiar path.Gloria tells him they have very limited time for this interview, but somehow the black Gloria gets to talking about her background and her reactions to racial insensitivities.