The stage setting for this latest play by Kathleen Akerley (who also directs it) is the inside of a rural house. It has many windows offering many perspectives. All around it, the stage is black. This is fitting because the six residents have largely moved there to withdraw from the world for which they have distaste, perhaps even disdain, They were all working at a law firm in an unidentified city. Two were lawyers, the rest performed other roles from office manager to making photocopies. Now they do things like teach, fix automobiles, and perform acupuncture Their commune is based upon equality and a return to nature. Each of the men (all the residents are male) has adopted a name redolent of nature (e.g. Frog, Raven, Hectare). One of them, Mal which is short for Animal (Daniel Vito Siefring), does some research and sees an ideological connection (and perhaps more than an ideological connection) between their community and Cambodia under the communist Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, which also based itself on equality and a rural way of life as healing an alienation supposedly caused by industrial society. The result of that utopian enterprise was the deaths of multitudes
All seems to be going well with the community until an attractive teen-aged girl (Kira Burri) sprains her ankle on their property. After she is brought into the house, she enters into a mystical state in which she prophesies disaster for the community. Another supernatural element comes into play as one of the residents, Fiver (Seamus Miller), reads the tarot for her and some other residents..These supernatural elements add intrigue and color to this murder mystery. The girl’s father (Jonathan Church) takes her home and winds up suing the community.
Pol Pot & Associates, LLP is a highly intellectual play, a drama of ideas that avoids being merely a philosophical discourse disguised as drama. Each of the communalists elicits our sympathy, at least at first. I would say this is due both to the script and the acting. It is not precisely about dystopia since no one is forced to enter the community nor stay there It is in part about the unavoidable tension between individual and community; but it is also, at bottom, about something deeper: the nature of community itself and how perspective can make it something good and healthy or a dark obsession. In the community depicted in this play, as in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, murder results. The alternation of the scenes from present to past and back again turns out not a mere gimmick but provides power to the tragic ending of this thought provoking play.
Pol Pot & Associates, LLC is at the Callan Theatre in Washington, D.C. through August 31st.