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'Hate' May Hit Even Closer to Home : Theater: Initial inspiration for the play was local violence, but the Oklahoma City tragedy changed things.

June 22, 1995|ALAN EYERLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

FULLERTON — The timing couldn't be better--unfortunately--for the premiere of "Hate," a play by Joel Beers opening Friday at the Tribune Theatre.

Beers, whose play is about the bombing of a Jewish temple by white supremacists, says he booked the theater well before April 19, the day the country was rocked by the explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

But when domestic terrorism and the growing militia movement suddenly became front-page news, Beers found himself finishing his two-act piece with an even greater sense of purpose.

The bombing "certainly crystallized a few ideas I had," says the 28-year-old Fullerton resident, who had drawn his initial inspiration for "Hate" from the violence of Orange County skinheads and what he saw as the widespread apathy of Americans numbed by escapist entertainment.

The play is set in a police station interrogation room somewhere in Orange County. At the center of the conflict is a Latina police lieutenant (played by Jennifer Rendek) dedicated to battling racism in the community. When a temple is bombed and three children are severely injured, she questions two young men, Michael and Jack, members of a white supremacist group known as the Brotherhood.

Michael (played on different nights by Adam Clark and Christopher M. Egger) attempts to intellectualize acts of violence committed by his group. Charming, articulate and arrogant, he preaches a gospel of hatred to manipulate his followers.

Beers thinks Michael's "greatest wish would be to be Hitler for a day. He's got an impressive vocabulary--people are just drawn to him--and he justifies all this hatred in very lofty philosophical terms."

*

Jack (Steven Lamprinos) is Michael's vulgar, brutish henchman, "kicking peoples' heads in," says Beers. "We're all looking for ways to feel real," and people like Jack make their presence felt in society by resorting to violence. "When you're beating someone's face," Beers notes, "at least that person knows you're there."

A key character is Michael's girlfriend, Monika (Darri Kristin). She represents a segment of America, Beers says, that would rather gorge itself on mindless distractions than confront a spreading menace in our society.

"She's aware of it, she knows it's going on. She just doesn't care about it."

"Hate" is Beers' fourth full-length play. His previous works for the 45-seat Tribune Theatre include "Indio," a Quentin Tarantino-style drama about kidnaping and mayhem in the California desert; and "An Anti-Chri$tma$ Carol," a dark comedy that mangles the Dickens classic to take some shots at materialism.

With "Hate," he says, he is hoping to prompt theatergoers into examining their own attitudes toward racism and violence. And he wants to make the point that doing nothing about hatred is an act of evil in itself.

As one of his characters says: "I always thought you had to choose to be a racist, but maybe you can become one by not choosing anything at all."

* "Hate" opens Friday at the Tribune Theatre, 116 1/2 W. Wilshire Ave. (facing Amerige Avenue) in Fullerton. 8 p.m. $5. Continues Saturday, Sunday and Thursdays through Sundays through July 9. (714) 525-3403.

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