Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion: A Theatrical Review

by on June 17th, 2011
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Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion: A Theatrical Review

It is a difficult task to attempt to bring sanity to pure insanity, but that is exactly what I shall attempt to do as I share the beauty of this unique and powerful stage production.

For those who lived during the horror of the Vietnam War, you will all know that there was no one that did not have an opinion. Either you were adamantly against the war and the killing that was going on there which amounted to nothing less than a true genocide, or you were adamantly supporting the troops who were there, following the directives of the American government, laying their lives on the line every day for reasons that simply never made sense to anyone. Men were slaughtered, massacred, maimed, and physically destroyed. Women and children were the tools of massive and horrific destruction against the American military. Many were taken hostage and tortured in ways that most of us cannot fathom in our own little comfortable lives. It is believed by many that there are still men over there who are missing in action, prisoners of war. All the while, Americans at home who did not understand the constant bombardment of news reports on television every night and hated the leadership of the American government who simply refused to end the massacre constantly focused on winning a war that could not be won. The youth of this nation rose up in protest against the establishment and the insanity that was Vietnam.

Throughout this time, one key young woman, an actress, chose to raise her own voice and use her popularity as a way to communicate the disgust and emotions that so many were feeling at the time. She was a popular actress who was the daughter of a very famous father who was also an actor, and very much against most of what she was choosing to do. Her name was Jane Fonda, and to this day, most that have ever been or are in the world of the military, have nothing but disgust if not pure unadulterated hate for her and her actions. Many that were protesting against the establishment of the day saw Jane Fonda as a spokesperson for their deepest feelings and emotions. When it comes right down to it, there were nothing but massive lies told on all sides. Lies about the military, the Viet-Kong, the Vietnamese people, the American government, the voices of the masses, yes, likely even about an actress named Jane Fonda.

On June 18, 1988 in Waterbury Connecticut, a small group of ex-military men gathered at a local church with the pastor, to meet and confront Jane Fonda. This meeting is what this production is about. A re-living of the meeting, and an understanding for all to share their individual stories and ideas regarding the Vietnam war, the horrors of it, and the horrific disrespect that Jane Fonda paid to all American soldiers during this time, regardless of whether or not that was her intention or not.

Written and directed by Terry Jastrow, Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion is a powerful production that causes the audience to have to deal with the sheer hell that our American military men had to endure, and the heart wrenching decisions that Jane Fonda made, many of which she is believed to be extremely sorry to have made. Many leave hating Jane Fonda all the more. Many leave thinking that it is time to stop hating and time to choose to simply move on.

The production stars Anne Archer as Jane Fonda and Don Swayze as Don Simpson. The remainder of the cast is loaded with highly talented performers, and all of them together present a wonderfully powerful program that both challenges and entices the audience to thought provoking levels. For those who know nothing about the Vietnam War, there are more than enough ways to compare the realities of that time in our history to the wars in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan today, or perhaps the horrors of the holocaust during the time of Hitler and the third Reich.

This is not a production for those who don’t want to think. It is not a production for those who are not willing to genuinely care about the suffering and pain that hundreds of thousands of American and Vietnamese lives endured and were lost because of. If theater is only a means of enjoyment and or fun for you, this is not your show. If, however, you honestly believe that theatre is intended to force us to think, force us to grow, force us to deal with cold hard facts, then this production will truly be right up your alley.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Anne Archer and Don Swayze after the show, and asked them several questions. Anne told me that not only was the writer of this production her husband, but that she had been working with him on the production for many years now. She stated that there was a major desire to correct the fact that he (the writer Terry Jastrow) had been a member of the media during the Vietnam War, but had not chosen to cover any aspect of it at that time. Ms. Archer stated that there had been a great deal of research done on this production, and that many of the real life video clips that are shown during the production are clips that have actually never been seen by the American public in the past.

I asked if the youth of our current error were not disconnected and uncaring about issues such as the ones dealt with in this production. Anne stated that she disagreed with my thinking, and felt that today’s youth were actually far more interested in the truths of this world than they are given credit for. She stated that our youth are actually highly concerned about peace, but the older groups of people in this world today are letting them down choosing not to teach them the truths and realities of the past. Perhaps the most poignant statement that she made in the interview was that the youth of today need to understand the greats that helped to make the world what it actually is, but we can’t expect youth to start with the Hemingway’s of the world, our generation needs to introduce them to the Ann Franks of the world first. In other words, we must invest in the youth of today if we want tomorrow to ever be better. Don stated that he felt it was productions like this that cause others to truly think about what matters in the world today. Simply put, I shall precisely quote only one person, Abraham Lincoln, who said, “Those who choose not to remember the past are destined to repeat it.”

The Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica is one of the most delightful theatres on the West side of Los Angeles. With plenty of parking, plenty of restaurants and bistros in the immediate area, and a wonderful beach town ambience, the area is a simply wonderful location to enjoy theatre. The program runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 7:00 PM through December 4, 2011. Tickets can be purchased by calling 310-392-7327, or by logging onto the internet at www.edgemarcenter.org. The theatre is located at 2437 Main Street in Santa Monica, CA 90405, and is easily reached off the 10 freeway using the 4th street exit and following the signs to Main Street.


Randall Gray

The California Theatre Critic

Yahoo On-line


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