SRJC theatre preview: “Can’t Happen here”


Tom Chown

Left to right: Khalid Shayota as Doremus Jessup, Neil Thollander as Senator Buzz Windrip, Ellora Gordon as Sissy, Sheila Farmer as Mrs. Gimmitch

Ashley Sennette, Staff Writer

When democracy fails and fascism wins, freedoms are sacrificed by some, yet others bravely fight the fall with dark political satire. This colorful play intends to wake people up to fascism in the U.S..

Santa Rosa Junior College Theater’s fall front runner is an adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel, “It Can’t Happen Here,” directed by Leslie Mcauley and written by Tony Taccone and Bennett Cohen. Presented by Dramatists Play Service inc., NY,

A fictional play, based on true experiences of Huey Long’s run against Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the presidential election of 1932.

“The play is a warning,” Michael Arbittor, who plays multiple roles including a villain Effingham Swan said, “That no system of government is safe from the evils of fascism, except the ones that are actively guarded against it.”

Main character, Doremus Jessup, a white, middle class editor, believes fascism can’t happen in America but presidential candidate Buzz Windrip shows him otherwise, Jessup is shaken out of his comfort zone and placed in denial.

McCauley says the play is about questions, like “What is it in the American consciousness that makes people make choices that don’t support democracy?” “How do we protect democracy?” and “what happens to a family when a family is divided politically?”

Stage Director, Coleton Wilson said, “What I see as the main theme of the play is that democracy is fragile”

There are many similarities between political issues of now and then. “It is so relevant and on the nose that I really think a lot of people are going to have a hard time believing that the source material was written over 80 years ago,” said cast member Ryan Sayler.

Stage Director, Coleton Wilson said, “What I see as the main theme of the play is that democracy is fragile”

There are 15 cast members, most of which will take on multiple roles. “We are all keen to bring an entertaining and thought provoking show to the community,” Arbittor said.

The play has some dark, tragic and terrifying tones, there will be explicit content, including violence and non-sexualized nudity and is recommended for ages 14 and up.

But  Wilson Says the play “is actually hopeful, motivating, and powerful. It even has funny, lighthearted, and heartfelt moments.”

There is an original song titled “Miss America” intended to be a metaphor to fascism, performed at the start of the show by Teresa Tudury, a well known local musician.

It Can’t Happen Here” will be held in Newman Auditorium and runs Oct. 6th -15th

There will be a interactive discussion with the cast Sunday Oct. 8th and a panel discussion with author Bennett Cohen and guests Oct. 11