steven dietz’s “yankee tavern” – a post 9/11 mystery

attended a reading of “yankee tavern” at geva theatre yesterday.

the play, written by steven dietz, has been described as a “post 9/11 mystery”. it’s a multi-layered story with 4 characters. adam and janet r planning to get married but there seem to be some uncomfortable secrets, some unsaid things between them. adam has inherited his dad’s run-down tavern along with his dad’s best friend ray, who is a tireless conspiracy theorist. as he talks about the real moon vs the invisible moon and how kleenex made the most of a spore lab-designed to trigger allergies, we find it easy to ignore or mock him. but then the conversation turns to 9/11 and ray becomes quite lucid – he asks some hard-hitting questions which r not so easy to dismiss. a mysterious man named palmer appears on the scene. he seems to have an insider’s knowledge about some disturbing facts related to 9/11. the plot begins to thicken and the play transitions seamlessly from comedy to drama to mystery. well written, tightly wound, and thought provoking, with the events of 9/11 at its core, yankee tavern finds it easy to draw its audience in.

the reading was followed by a discussion with three local “instigators” – a u.s. army general who did a tour of duty in iraq and who had been working at the pentagon before 9/11, a reporter for the democrat and chronicle and an activist/free lance journalist who writes for city news. i have to say that the retired general’s comments were the most cogent and interesting to me. he confirmed in some detail how they had already been working on iraq before 9/11 ever happened, in fact as soon as the bush administration came into office. there was a great push from the neo-cons to make iraq happen and 9/11 was just a convenient cover that fell into their laps.

of course this is not something new. what’s shocking is that it has not yet seeped into mainstream consciousness. that was my question actually: what is the definition of conspiracy? is it anything that contradicts the govt’s official story? didn’t we learn from watergate that govts lie, even ours? and if so, why discredit skepticism about the govt’s position as “conspiracy”? the reporter on the panel made some lame comment about how a conspiracy can be defined as something not confirmed in mainstream media. btw this guy also believes that the ny times and wall street journal r the ultimate bastions of truth. i was glad when the free lance journalist didn’t let him get away with that and pointed out the damage done by the ny times in the run-up to the iraq war. the general answered my question thoughtfully by appreciating the importance of skepticism in a democracy. he also said that based on his own experience of working for the govt he wouldn’t be surprised if some of the “conspiracies” mentioned in the play were in fact true.

there was a lot of talk about oil being at the forefront of our motivation to go to iraq. i couldn’t help interjecting from the audience that oil might have been an attraction but there is more to it than just that. someone asked about the accuracy of the information presented in the play and i was a bit annoyed by one of the organizers who said that every fact mentioned by dietz could be found on the internet thus eliciting a wave of laughter from the audience. i don’t like it when people diss the internet. oh sure, there is much which is worthless and offensive on the web but anyone with half a brain can figure out rather quickly what to look for. the internet gives us democracy now, mosaic world news, al jazeera, counterpunch, the guardian, truthout, dahr jamail, jeremy scahill, pulse media, flashpoints and much much more. it’s rich, multi-dimensional, accessible (hopefully to more and more of the world population), instantaneous and almost free. what’s there not to like? it’s the democratization of information which is obviously a threat to the old establishment and so here goes the dissing again.

all in all it was an interesting evening. i shook the general’s hand before i left. he and i seemed to be on the same page.

kudos to geva theatre for putting this event together. yankee tavern was the last play in geva’s “the hornets’ nest” series this year.

9/11 questions