By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Billed as the first full production of Mac Wellman's play, Two September is a dreary docudrama that still feels like a work in progress or a staged reading. The four actors do a lot of reading, in fact, of letters, memos and military documents delivered word for word. Yawn-o-rama.
Wellman's material is drawn from events in the early days of Ho Chi Minh's Vietnam, pre-Cold War, pre-pre-Gulf of Tonkin incident. Paralleling that is the life and work of novelist Josephine Herbst, who lost her job in the American intelligence corps through rumored Leftist leanings. Two Septemberpresents Herbst (Elizabeth Rothan) telling her story in a series of long monologues, interrupted by flashbacks to discussions (and the reading aloud of lots of letters) between American military officers (Bruce DuBose, Matthew Hutchens) and Ho Chi Minh (Todd Haberkorn), talks that determine the position the United States will take in Vietnam's battle against French colonialism (and we know how that turned out). At the end of the play, the two stories, such as they are, intersect, but by then the boredom factor has beaten down any desire to know what Herbst and Ho had in common.
Directed by Katherine Owens, Two September is a long 90-minute slog. Rothan, one of Dallas' best actors, is required to do little more than exhibit her flawless diction as Herbst. Oddly, Wellman has Herbst speaking from the afterlife, quoting herself in that "...and then I wrote" style of bad one-man shows. "Just after the D-Day invasion, I wrote in my journal...," she says. Then later, "I died in January 1969." How awkward.
The cast members shuffle their documents ably, but they're all as cold and emotionless as specimens under glass. As Ho Chi Minh, Haberkorn has to utter such lines as "We shall carve out an airstrip in the jungle for your L-5 observer craft." It's like listening to four people read from the encyclopedia.