The new Lowell House Drama Group last night gave an electric performance of a play that, curiously enough, seems both outdated and timely.
Darkness at Noon has faded as a piece of realism because Koestler's portrait of the Neantherthal second-generation Communist has been grossly exaggerated and laughed out of existence. Clumping about his metallic office in his black boots, blowing cigar smoke in the face of his victims, cheaply adjusting theory to exigency and blindly following his vision of the party line-- he is the subject of a thousand Western caricatures. With Sputniks today whizzing about the head of Apollo, it's difficult to accept the proposition that the Soviet Union is administered by men who believe the charm of a piston ring exceeds that of a milk maid, who see challenge only in the mundane decisions of tactics, not in the grand and original plans of strategy.
Yet Darkness at Noon deals with issues that Bulganin must find preciously close these days. One can only guess how the intricacies of party theory confronted such malevolent characters as Beria and Malenkov. Certainly Koestler's 1938 psychological insights into the Communist-mind-at-work have modern and equally terrifying variants, which you not idly ponder as you leave Lowell House.
Sidney Kingsley's play is of course also a human drama of a man whose humanity overcomes his professed politics. Under the direction of Alan Rinzler, the production gives vitality to his struggle and an explosive tension to the result. Nowhere in the show is there pause; it has a professional sheen.
Ronald Coralian, who is surely one of the College's best actors, gives a relentlessly taut performance as Rubashov, doomed. He plays with conviction and never moves away from the heart of a long and great part. Sharon Connolley, the bourgeois temptation who is a symbol of the humanity that he finds foreign to the Party, succeeds in conveying simplicity in a very complex world; she has a presence. William Noble, in the role of 402 who occupies the cell next to Rubashov, plays with primitive charm and excitement. Alfred Bakhash, another prisoner, presents a remarkable caricature in the first act; we should see more of him.
Travis Linn and David Pursley, as Ivanov and Gletkin respectively, seem physically very young for their imposing roles as interrogators of Rubashov. Pursley's Indoor Athletic Building haircut perhaps gives the impression in his case. But both act with ease and are reasonable representations of Party hacks.
Robert Linn's set is stark and unnerving, combining well with the rather shadowy lighting of Peter Erskine.