By Kyle Francis
Whether it’s taking a trumped up STD test to rewrite a midterm or inciting armed rebellion to get back into art school, nearly everyone has done something drastic for the sake of their continued education. Malcolm, the starring character from the upcoming Dark Forest Theatre production of Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, chose the latter.
Kicked out of art school for a minor act of rebellion, Malcolm wakes up on New Year’s day and decides to change his life. His story of love, loss and tyranny begins humbly enough when convincing other students to drop out of school and form the radical “Dynamic Erectionist Party” with him. This relatively innocent act of rebellion quickly gains dark overtones when the DEP’s plans turn to kidnapping, vandalism and violence.
Very loosely based on playwright David Halliwell’s own experiences in art school, the production follows the rise of Malcolm from a girl-shy art student to an angry fascist political leader. These may seem like unrealistic polar extremes, but in the context of the play little Malcolm’s huge leap in character is feasible, even somewhat endearing.
“He’s a bit like Richard the Third in a way,” states a pensive Aaron Coates, the director of the play. “He does some quite terrible things, but you kind of feel for him, because he’s really charming. That’s what ultimately makes him so convincing throughout the course of the play.”
Written and set in 1965, Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs borrows its revolutionary overtones from the flower-plastered era, drawing an obvious parallel between Malcolm and Hitler. This of course is Hitler the charismatic leader and revolutionary, not Hitler the genocidal maniac. That would just be inappropriate.
“[The play] has tons of references to revolution, lots of references to Hitler and Marx. The whole creation of their party has some pretty strong overtones that link to Hitler, but they aren’t anti-Semitic or anything,” defends Coates. “They talk about having a ‘putsch,’ and there’s this great bit in act two where [Malcolm] gives a speech to a cheering crowd that’s very reminiscent of Hitler.”
Coupled with the assumption that everyone loves an underdog, the recurring theme of fascism and the Malcolm/Hitler parallel helps the play overcome its 40-year time span, lending the production a timelessness not often found in newer plays.
Three years ago, Coates and his ragtag group of playwrights formed the Dark Forest Theatre company to perform Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, but lacked the finances to do so. The long wait only served to produce a fierce commitment within Coates for the play.
“I really love the production because it’s got a little bit of everything,” enthuses Coates with a warm, paternal air. “It’s got some sex, it’s got some violence, it’s got some romance, it’s got some pathos, and it’s got some sentiment– it’s just a great night out at the theatre.”