Reagan = Hitler? The Washington Post Likes That Play

April 26th, 2006 7:23 AM

Ronald Reagan may now be remembered as one of America's greatest presidents, but the Washington Post is still willing to consider him comparable to mass-murdering dictators. On Tuesday, theater critic Nelson Pressley oozed over playwright Tony Kushner's work comparing Reagan to Hitler:

Before Tony Kushner hit the jackpot with "Angels in America," he wrote something called "A Bright Room Called Day," and in it he equated Reagan's America with Hitler's Germany.  Kushner being Kushner -- that is, burning with ideological fire, thoroughly grounded in history and theory, and preposterously gifted with literary agility -- that wild swing of a thesis gains surprising traction onstage.

Apparently, the play is set in Germany, and then the Reagan-hating segments are interspersed on film. Pressley explains how much he adores them:

Best of all are Zillah's "interruptions," as Kushner labels them. Almost entirely separate from the well-acted saga of the German friends, these interjections are here rendered on film...Projected on a wide section of wall high at the back of the stage, Elizabeth Chomko's intermittent appearances as Zillah are riveting. The character is outraged at what she sees as the Reagan administration's consistent erosions of democratic principles and human rights, and in witty bits filmed both indoors and amid the marble edifices of the Mall, the punk-styled Chomko makes Zillah's case with barely controlled fury.

So Ronald Reagan's stern anti-communism leads to the end of the Cold War and a global warming toward democracy, and this crank of a playwright can say black is white and find erosion of human rights, and the Washington Post says "it's a rave! Go see it!" Pressley finds great comfort for the left in this Reagan-bashing:

Zillah is the play's real gambit, the in-your-face thing that makes it zing, and yet the slow-motion destruction of the Germans grows terribly absorbing, too...

Kushner has suggested the play could be performed without Zillah's contemporary interruptions, but after watching this production and seeing how neatly she jibes with our saturation in partisan documentaries and aggressively positioned cable news, she seems indispensable. Zillah continues to capture the frustrated, unapologetically shrill cries of the out-of-power left: It's terribly easy to imagine "Bright Room" as having played on a never-ending loop in disaffected liberal districts ever since, to put it as Zillah would, the presidency was seized from Al Gore by the Supreme Court. It is, in ways Kushner implicitly forecast, a melancholy rhapsody for the folks who bleed blue.

It's hard to see how the left can get out of their electoral funk by utterly smearing President Reagan as an enemy of democracy and a comparable figure to Hitler. That's no formula for winning over Americans.