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LA Theaterworks Review -- Pack of Lies

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Pack of Lies by Hugh Whitmore
                        review by JMW

(First of all, my apologies. I heard this play months ago on the archived radio broadcast.  Like a doofus I didn’t think to review it then, when I could have rerun it at my leisure.  Now I am fuzzy on many details such as which actors played which roles – with the exception of Selby of course  J.  A more substantial verion of this review will appear when I have an opportunity to buy the show from LATheaterworks.)



     Trust, like the soul, never returns, once it is gone.--Publius Syrus.  


I think that quote describes the plot of this play, based on a real life spy scandal in Britain in the 1960’s, to a T. 


     As the play opens we meet the Jacksons, an average British suburban family of its time:  husband Bob wife Barbara and daughter Julie.  Their best friends are a charming and friendly Canadian couple named Kroger.


      Into this everyday setting comes an MI5 agent.  He has commandeered a room in the Jackson’s home and installed agents there for the purpose of surveillance on one of the Jackson’s neighbors.    The Jacksons are understandably perturbed by this.  How could anyone in this close-knit suburban neighborhood – someone they KNOW – be doing anything that would interest MI5?


      Suspicion mounts then becomes more focused as it becomes clear that a caller at the Kroger’s home is the object of MI5’s interest.  The Jacksons of course are shocked and in denial, falling all over themselves to think of plausible reasons for the Kroger’s involvement with this man.  They become more and more frustrated and angry as the situation spirals further and further out of their control.  Finally there are no excuses left  and, feeling hurt and betrayed, the Jacksons face an excruciating moral choice between friendship and duty.


       One of the most poignant moments of the play comes near the end in a monologue by Peter Kroger (David Selby).  He explains how it started, very innocently in the 1920s when he as an idealistic young man first joined the Communist party (for those not familiar with this period, the 20’s was very like the sixties for political activism as well as free love).  Something terrible happened which led the couple to flee to Canada, where they got just a little deeper and a little deeper – until they found themselves in their present situation.  Again, it is Selby’s skilled voicework that sells this moment, and makes us feel great sympathy for this man, not a bad man, just a weak one, who is in way over his head.  He hated the double life, hated lying to people he truly began to see as friends, and he has enough morals to be deeply ashamed of the pain his actions have caused them.


      In the end of course, everyone has lost.  Where there once had been friendship there was left nothing.    Nothing but betrayal, mistrust and broken soured memories – and the feeling that they can never see anyone or anything for what it seems to be ever again.  For those who like plays that make you THINK, I think this is an absolute must-listen.

review @ 2004 and may not be reprinted without permission

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