IT HAPPENED ON U.S. SOIL
REVIEW: BLUEPRINT FOR PARADISE
BY RYAN M LUÉVANO
It’s frightening when a work of fiction bears an all too familiar resemblance to what’s happening in our current society, this is the case of Laurel M. Wetzork’s new play Blueprint for Paradise. In this electrifying play, based on true events, we see the story about a wealthy American couple who tried to build a compound in California for Nazi sympathizers in the 1940s. Throughout this work the situations of terrorism and discrimination that transpire evoke an eerie sense of familiarity to the news we see in our world today.
The copious time and effort that Wetzork spent researching and crafting this new play is evident, and furthermore, upon experiencing the opening night performance, her laborious work has certainly paid off: Blueprint for Paradise is a success. On the surface of the play we get a drawing room drama atmosphere cast with a wealthy couple (the Nazi sympathizers), servants, German visitors and an African American architect. The central plot here is about finding an architect to design a Nazi compound in Los Angeles; however, upon unfolding of the inner layers of the play we learn the side stories of each character, and by way of this are introduced to the deeper issues at stake: gender equality, discrimination against immigrants and African Americans and terrorism in the U.S. In the second act masks are ripped off as Wetzork reveals that the some people are not what they appear to be. Here the play rides the lines among quasi-farce, mystery and melodrama while finally picking up speed leading to a thrilling denouement that you’ll want to see.
Director Laura Steinroeder had her work cut out for her in Blueprint and she proves that she’s up to the task as she skillfully balances all the moving parts of this intricate work. Steinroeder has brought out all the nuances, point of view and emotions of these characters, and employs compelling pacing of the series of events while underscoring all the social and political issues that are at the heart of this play.
Meredith Thomas (Mrs. Clara Taylor) leads the cast as the anti-heroine whose performance is deeply moving and all absorbing—we know she’s an American traitor, yet through her own turmoil we are able to look past that and see her humanity. Clara’s housemaid, Ann Hu (Fen “Fenny” Gao) is delightful and charming, she brings cheer and innocence to every scene while letting us know of the innate fear that consumes her. Peter McGlynn (Wolfgang Schreiber) is the ultimate Nazi villain although he doesn’t reveal the full extent of his maliciousness until well into the second act—his cool and sophisticated nature seen in the first act melts away quickly once it’s time to take action.
With so many theatrical works about the Nazi party and WWII another one may seem redundant; however, this not the case for Blueprint for Paradise because this play takes the action to American soil to relate a story that most are not familiar. Additionally, with Blueprint there’s more to tell than the story at hand, Wetzork let’s us know that history does repeat itself: the Nazis may be gone, but terrorism and hatred have unfortunately not disappeared from the land of the free.
Blueprint for Paradise runs July 30 through Sept. 4, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.and Sundays at 3 p.m. The Hudson Theatres are located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038. For information and to purchase tickets, call (323) 960-4412 or go to www.BlueprintForParadise.com.