|Photo(s): Megan Moore|
One of the things that struck me most about the production, however, was its audience. Cahill plays with political dynamite here and there, but the crowd at Merrimack never seemed to pull back in a xenophobic way from what they were watching. Instead they remained attentive and sympathetic throughout, even to characters who calmly mouthed anti-American clichés. Indeed, I felt during the performance an open-mindedness that I rarely feel in Boston, an open-mindedness that allows one to actually consider history as more than a Billy Joel pop song, as more than a kind of decades-long "show," as more than a demonstration of this or that academic perspective. I was also struck by the sense of trust that's evident in the audience at Merrimack (I get the same feeling at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals in Canada); the theatregoers in Merrimack don't jump to conclusions because they know that even what shocks or offends them will eventually be limned by the artists on stage in a subtle and humane fashion. So in a way the audience is itself a product of the theatre that they support. There's probably no greater tribute you can make to a theatre than that, frankly. And I wonder, when will a company in Boston proper achieve the same thing - an audience that is not necessarily aligned with the institution politically, or as part of their alumni community, or because of their ethnicity or sexual orientation, but simply supports the theatre because they trust the artists? That's the dream, everyone. That's the dream.