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This is not a time of peace

The McCarthy Era through the eyes of a woman caught up in its repercussions.

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Simon Feil as Moses, Charlotte Cohn as Alina and Roger Hendricks Smith as Hillel in a scene from Deb Margolin’s “This is not a time of peace” at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Steven Pisano)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left”] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar]

The Red Scare of the 1950’s still reverberates 70 years later.

Deb Margolin’s moving and scary This is not a time of peace at Theatre Row is a portrait of a woman haunted by the McCarthy Era and its toll on her family and relationships.

On a stark but effective set by Jessica Parks—chairs arranged in a semi-circle on either side of a large bed—the characters, led by Alina (Charlotte Cohn, powerful and charismatic) are arrayed and speak their lines.

Ken King as Martin and Charlotte Cohn as Alina in a scene from Deb Margolin’s “This is not a time of peace” at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Steven Pisano)

Alina, 49, a mother and wife, is torn between her predictable husband, Moses, late forties, (Simon Feil, finding subtlety in what might have been a dull character) and her flaming heterosexual lover, Martin, mid-thirties,(Ken King, perfectly cast), a poet and novelist.  Moses has been a comfortable, but oddball companion while Martin thinks of little else but sex, which is portrayed robustly.

At the same time she is caring for her aging father Hillel, mid-eighties, a retired university professor (a grave and effective Roger Hendricks Simon) whose personal and professional lives were directly affected by the machinations of the Red Scare era.

McCarthy, himself, is a character portrayed by Steven Rattazzi, is kept busy gruffly spouting his phony statistics and accusations.

Steven Rattazzi as Senator Joseph McCarthy in a scene from Deb Margolin’s “This is not a time of peace” at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Steven Pisano)

Margolin agilely weaves the different time periods and character conflicts helped by Julia Squier’s costumes and Paul Hudson’s lighting.

As Alina negotiates all the emotional and psychological stresses that beset her, a portrait emerges that parallels her personal battles with those of her martyred father.  The powerful animal attraction she feels for Martin vies with the even-handed, often irritating, domesticity of her marriage to Moses whose many peculiarities Margolin paints with humor and understanding.

The remaining two characters are Hillel’s loyal lawyer, Adolf Berle (Frank Licato, solemn and believable) and a Russian named Daniil Shinyayev (Richard Hollis in a sweaty, effective portrayal of desperation).

Frank Licato as Adolph Berle and Roger Hendricks Smith as Hillel in a scene from Deb Margolin’s “This Is not a time of peace” at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Steven Pisano)

Berle was an actual person who was closely associated with Franklin D. Roosevelt and took on the invidious threat to democracy that McCarthy embodied.

Shinyayev asks Hillel for a favor that would only implicate him deeper in the anti-leftist passions of the Fifties.  Shinyayev wants Hillel to reveal extremely confidential information about a metal alloy that Hillel has been working on, a secret formula that could have international consequences.  Hillel is torn between helping a desperate colleague and his own overwhelming struggles.

This is Not a Time of Peace has a stream of consciousness feel effectively handled by the director Jerry Heymann. There is never any confusion about who is who and what they represent despite overlapping dialogue and quick segues from one era to the other.

Roger Hendricks Smith as Hillel and Richard Hollis as Daniil Shinyayev in a scene from Deb Margolin’s “This is not a time of peace” at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Steven Pisano)

It is Cohn’s performance as Alina that is the strong spine of the play.  She opens and closes the play going from a matter-of-fact opening monologue to an impassioned closing statement, leaving the audience to empathize with her and comprehend all the frustrations she experiences.   

This is not a time of peace (through March 16, 2024)

New Light Theater Project’s Spotlight Series

Theatre Two at Theatre Row, 412 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-714-2442 or visit http://www.newlighttheaterproject.com

Running time: 100 minutes without an intermission

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About Joel Benjamin (562 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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