UNB Theatre’s last play of the year is on stage from April 4 to 7. John Osborne’s A Patriot for Me is a historical drama based on the fascinating true story of Alfred Redl, an intelligence officer who served in the highest ranks of the Austro-Hungarian army in the years prior to the first World War.
The story follows Alfred Redl’s unmasking as a homosexual by enemy Russian spies, as he is then blackmailed into becoming a double agent to cover up his secret. In this plot, Redl is both a victim of persecution for his sexuality and a deeply flawed man who seeks validation in traditional codes of masculinity and service to his nation.
For Devin Rockwell, who plays one of Redl’s secret lovers as well as other minor roles, the theme of the play is still relevant in 2018 and will always continue to be “because of how we perceive people to be masculine, and how a person who is dedicated to their country is expected to be and act, and the prejudices associated with it,” he said.
But the play is also relevant because of the historical importance of the topics dealt within it. “Redl is Jewish and at that time and place, it’s not an easy identity to have. Those two factors, being gay and Jewish, which he hides throughout the play, are strong reasons to be persecuted. It’s a complicated situation, where two different identities are meshed together, in an age where identities are really coming to the forefront in the public discussion,” he said.
For Rockwell, the most important realization he had throughout the production of the play was that discrimination can interplay at different levels. “Because of discrimination, my character has internalized his homophobia but is also treated badly by other people that are gay because he is Hungarian. So even when you’re among people that nominaly are supposed to be your allies, you face the sensation of being betrayed by those who are supposed to be your friends or stick up for you,” he said.
A Patriot For Me was one of the most shocking and controversial plays of the 1960s as it deals with contentious and often hidden topics of homosexuality in the army. UNB Theatre’s production features a cast of 19 actors and is directed by Len Falkenstein, with design and technical direction by Mike Johnston and fight direction by Jean-Michel Cliche.
“With a [large] cast, we wanted to select a play where it would be likely for each actor to have a significant role, so even people that are in small roles, they are in various small roles. I think it was very important for our director to make the play equitable and give everyone a shot to act, because it is an acting class,” Rockwell said.
Being UNB Theatre’s last play of the year, Rockwell added they’re going out with a bang. “There’s multiple fight scenes, a quite spectacular drag ball, and is possibly one of the biggest productions that UNB Theatre has put on. It’s quite a step up and a very ambitious show, and I’m really happy to be a part of it,” he said.
The play opened on Wednesday, April 4 and will play though Saturday April 7 at Memorial Hall on the UNB campus. Tickets are $14 for the general public, $10 for seniors or underemployed and $8 for students. Tickets will be available at the door.