Dinner With Goebbels , a play by Mark Leith that imagines a dinner party with the modern fathers of political propaganda, is currently being presented by act2studioWorks at Trinity St. Paul’s as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. It’s an insightful show and given the current political climate brought about by targeted disinformation and heightened by the tools of the information age, it couldn’t be more timely and relevant.
Leith’s play is a political fantasy in which Karl Rove (Saul Kaufman), head of public relations for the George W. Bush administration and the mastermind behind the “War on Terror” invites his hero Edward Bernays (Randall Moore), the nephew of Sigmund Freud who literally wrote the book on propaganda, to dinner. To Rove’s surprise Bernays also brings Josef Goebbels (Glenn Mosher), the infamous Nazi Minister of Propaganda under Adolf Hitler.
Leith uses this imaginary dinner party to trace the lineage of modern political propaganda, comparing and contrasting its use throughout history via a series of historically accurate anecdotes. I found it fascinating how easily that lineage can be extrapolated to explain the targeted disinformation campaigns on social media leading to the rise of far right leaders across Western democracies we see today.
Truth be told, though, I thought the piece worked better as an intellectual exercise than as a compelling character drama. This production employed actors who, though age-appropriate for their characters, are relatively new to acting, which had an effect on the technical aspects of the show; I found the pacing wasn’t as tight and the tension between the characters wasn’t as high as it might have been with more seasoned actors in the roles.
Regardless, the show more than succeeds on the strength of its script.
- Dinner With Goebbels plays at Trinity St. Paul’s. (427 Bloor St. W.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; not recommended for children.
- The Festival reports that this venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Friday July 5th, 9:00 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 9:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 9:00 pm
- Monday July 8th, 9:00 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 9:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 9:00 pm
- Friday July 12th, 9:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 9:00 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 9:00 pm
Cast: Randall Moore (Bernays), Kevin McLellan(Goebbels), Saul Kaufman (Rove) Photographer: Rick Sutton