Daren Scott and Samantha Ginn in "The North Plan." Photo courtesy of ion theatre
Jason Wells’ The North Plan, making its San Diego debut courtesy of ion theatre, clearly aspires to pungent political satire. Its hyper-physicality and broadly drawn characters, however, render it closer to political farce. The thriller-brand premise is smartly conceived: a thuggish splinter group has taken over the federal government, martial law has been declared, and a fugitive State Department bureaucrat (Daren Scott) armed with a stolen “enemies list” finds himself under arrest in a tiny Ozarks town. But the threatened outside world feels like fantasy beyond the walls of the town’s one-cell police station. There, the antics of Tanya Shepke (Samantha Ginn) and how they become co-antics with everyone else in the story (bureaucrat Carlton Berg, a police chief and his assistant, and two Department of Homeland Security suits) outdo and out-shout anything that might be happening on the martial-lawed streets of America.
Behind bars apparently after a drunken driving bust, Tanya is one notch above hillbilly, a victim of few breaks in life and of a no-good husband who tried to drown her in a bathtub. But she is fearless, impetuous and prone to firing fusillades of f-bombs at anyone who pisses her off – which is everybody. Ginn, a talented comedienne, has unfettered fun with the character, who finds herself pulled into fellow arrestee Berg’s plan to get his enemies list into the hands of someone who can help save the country. The first-act setting up, behind bars, of this conspiracy between Berg and Tanya is frantic and frankly hysterical. Kudos here to Scott, Ginn and director Isaac Fowler.
When the Homeland Security wonks (Jake Rosko and Fred Hunting) arrive in Act 2, The North Plan’s action inside the little police station ramps up, culminating with deadly gunplay, but all of it played as if with accompanying laugh track. There’s no telling how what happened will impact the bad guys in charge of the country or the emergence of an organized opposition, but you won’t care. Not after you’ve watched this Tanya Shepke – another revolutionary who called herself Tanya, aka Patty Hearst, is referenced during the play – strut her stuff. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 8/30/17.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.