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Theater review: 'Terre Haute' at the Blank Theatre

October 14, 2010 |  3:30 pm


Ideology is the pretense for a close encounter of the erotic kind in "Terre Haute," Edmund White's absorbing two-hander now at the Blank Theatre. Based on the astonishing fact that Timothy McVeigh and Gore Vidal were pen pals, "Terre Haute" substitutes fictional names and imagines the two meeting on opposite sides of death row.

Oklahoma City bomber Harrison (Jim Parrack) wants to use his last five days on Earth to tell his story to patrician journalist James (Mike Farrell). The aging writer feels an odd kinship with Harrison’s anti-government iconoclasm -- and a certain attraction to this clean-cut mass murderer. 

White, a novelist whose works include "A Boy’s Own Story," is always intelligent company. Discussing his flight to the penitentiary, James dryly notes that the airlines still haven't found a way to separate the air in coach from that of first class. Harrison, listening to the writer's account of his physical decline and isolation, observes they're "both on death row now."

But "Terre Haute" is ultimately more colloquy than play, and the encounter, despite charged subject matter, lacks urgency. What director Kirsten Sanderson and her cast do find is an arresting intimacy. Parrack's Harrison, tightly wound but utterly direct, makes a strong foil for Farrell's oblique James, who hides plenty of pain and fear behind his urbane persona. Both are strong believers; both are finally alone.  

-- Charlotte Stoudt

"Terre Haute," the Blank Theatre Company, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.  8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 14. $26 and $30. Contact: (323) 661-9827 or Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Photo: Jim Parrack, left, and Mike Farrell in "Terre Haute." Credit: Rick Baumgartner