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WashPost Critic Confesses ‘Tolerant’ Liberals Can’t Really Enjoy Play About Scalia

by | May 12, 2015

By Tim Graham

Edward Gero

Edward Gero

On Sunday Washington Post drama critic Peter Marks underlined how liberals can’t stand even to sit in the presence of conservatives, even when actors are playing them. At Washington’s Arena Stage, the play The Originalist about Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a liberal audience member couldn’t hack five minutes before leaving:

He [actor Edward Gero] was barely five minutes into the piece, delivering the monologue that starts the three-character play, when, he reports, a man rose to his feet, huffing as he stalked out, “That’s about as much of Scalia as I can take!”

As it happens, the outburst couldn’t have been better timed if the playwright had scripted it. The line for Scalia at that juncture was about his habit of offending the nation’s “keepers of the liberal flame.” As the agitated patron left, Gero exclaimed, on cue: “Let me tell you something. They’re easy to shock!”

….Arena’s championing of the play is a healthy development for an art form all too consumed with preaching to the ideological choir. In giving us Scalia as anything but a monster, “The Originalist” is adding a fresh page to a formula-driven genre that’s highly popular these days, one that turns leading lights of recent history — most of them political progressives or moderate Democrats — into the stars of their own shows.

It’s much easier for liberals to sit through an entire play revolving around Martin Luther King or LBJ or Ann Richards. But the people who pat themselves on the back for being so “tolerant” can’t manage a play about someone who’s not one of their liberal heroes. Marks wrote:

I confess I was more curious than thrilled at spending an hour and 45 minutes in the company of a jurist who struck me as a mean-spirited ideologue, but I also was intrigued by whether Gero, an actor I admire, might convince me otherwise. It occurred to me, too, how rarely the theater attempts to bridge the ideological divide: People who write, perform in and produce plays tend to occupy the left of the political spectrum, and audiences for a lot of this work are much the same.

Even the actors pretending to be conservatives get less applause at the end!

During another recent performance of the play, Gero says, the curtain-call applause for him and fellow cast members Kerry Warren and Harlan Work was so wan that Gero felt compelled to comment on it, something he had never done.

“We took our bows, and then I stepped forward and said, ‘Oh, you’re all liberals!’ ” Gero recalls.

The reaction? “They roared, and leapt to their feet.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at

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