Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Terre Haute (59E59)

By Zak
• gripping • topical • thought provoking • disturbing • well-crafted •

Peter Eyre and Nick Westrate in Terre Haute. Photo by Valentina Medda.

BOTTOM LINE: A deeply compelling drama that humanizes the man responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing.

Edmund White’s captivating new play, Terre Haute, has transferred to the hip venue of 59E59 direct from London’s West End. The show has received glowing reviews from many critics including Time Out and The New York Times and these accolades are very, very well deserved. Terre Haute is inspired by Gore Vidal’s famous essays on Timothy McVeigh, the man responsible for the deaths of 168 innocent people on April 19th, 1995. Edmund White changes the names of these two prolific figures and creates a stunning fictional drama that reveals what might have happened as Vidal interviews McVeigh to try to uncover his true intention behind the events of that tragic day in American history.

I am originally from Oklahoma City, so this piece will probably hit far closer to home for me than the average New Yorker, but I guarantee that you will be hooked from the second the lights go down for this 80 minute rollercoaster ride through the mind of a man seemingly void of remorse regarding his heinous actions. With a set comprised of only two chairs and a glass cage that houses James (inspired by McVeigh and played with eerie precision by Peter Eyre) the audience is forced to confront the heavy arguments concerning humanity that Terra Haute presents. Nick Westrate expertly portrays Harrison (inspired by Vidal) who finds himself getting too close to a terrorist facing execution and at times sympathizes with him and even finds himself questioning his own opinions about the events of that awful day.

I don’t want to say too much more because you should go and see this exciting play. White has been compared to Marcel Proust and Henry James, and this thought-provoking drama definitely merits those comparisons. Terra Haute had me questioning my own opinions about what makes someone evil, conspiracy theories, The Branch Davidians, writing, patriotism, and a slew of other things. If that’s not great theatre, than I don’t know what is. It’s going to make you feel a tad uncomfortable, but I don’t know who goes to a play about Timothy McVeigh to feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. If your favorite show is Mamma Mia! and you don't care for a more intellectual theatre experience, than Terra Haute is probably not the show for you. If you like dark, disturbing, gritty, first rate political commentary than this is right up your alley. You, no doubt, will be thoroughly engrossed for an hour and half and have a ton of things to talk about for days after.

(Terre Haute plays at 59E59 Theatres, 59th Street between Park and Madison. Perfomances run through February 15th Tuesday-Friday at 8:15PM, Saturday at 2:15PM and 8:15PM, and Sunday at 3:15. Tickets are $35 and are available through Ticket Central (212) 279-4200 or at For more info go to

1 comment:

Obviouschild said...

Nice Article. I love Terre Haute.