Baltimore Sun features Don Thompson and his play "Democracy: A Work In Progress"

June 30 , 2005

J. Wynn Rousuck discusses "Democracy for the Fourth"


Just in time for Independence Day, the Maryland Ensemble Theatre has revived Democracy: A Work in Progress, a show that the Frederick- based company debuted last fall as a prelude to the presidential election.

Created collaboratively, then scripted by Don Thompson and directed and designed by Tad Janes, Democracy - at Johns Hopkins University's Mattin Center - uses a series of skits, images, movement and projections to offer a selective survey of democracy from the time of the ancient Greeks onward.

The most effective imagery and choreography comes near the beginning when the seven cast members remove the red stripes from an American flag on the back wall, then use these stripes as everything from banners to rifles. In an especially moving segment, a tearful Rona Mensah portrays an ex-slave who believes in love and forgiveness - even after seeing her husband and sons killed.

Later, Matt Baughman does a comic turn as a motor-mouthed, right- wing talk-show host (a cross between Bill O'Reilly and Martin Short's Jiminy Glick), who interviews Thomas Jefferson (Clayton Myers) and discovers, to his dismay, that in Jefferson's day, he would have been dubbed a liberal.

Not all of the segments are equally effective, in terms of writing or performance. But in the end, when the actors come out dressed as characters throughout history and fold an American flag, the audience gets a clear picture of democracy as an ever-evolving form of government, made up of highly diverse individuals.

Showtimes at the Mattin Center, 33rd and Charles streets, are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through July 9. Tickets are $15. Call 410-516-4695.