This is a story as old as mankind and as modern as tomorrow’s headlines. It is the unshakeable notion of secret government, a power buried deep behind the scenes that is the true power of the government. In “The Leather Apron Club” it reaches back to the founding fathers of America with a particular emphasis on Benjamin Franklin. Yet over the more than two century long history of the United States of America the real power behind American politics is the mysterious Leather Apron Club. Then one day in modern history a well-regarded and brilliant young media analyst James Avery is invited to join this omnipotent secret society. There is, however, one final act required of him to secure his place within “The Leather Apron Club.”
As with all conspiracy theories it sounds a bit tired and clichéd but the show “The Leather Apron Club” is so well written directed and performed that it is utterly riveting. There are subtleties and nuances that capture your imagination and move you through each compelling twist and turn. There is also an abundance of reality that elevates the entire show and makes it without question one of the best on stage right now. Just one example with which I have a very personal relationship was reference to the Gulf of Tonkin incident that President Johnson used as an excuse to dramatically increase America’s involved in the Vietnam War. The statement is made that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was manufactured solely to create a situation that would allow for the escalation. That is a scary and very conspiratorial claim but having been in the Gulf of Tonkin at the time Johnson made those allegations I can say unequivocally that there was no significant threat then and there.
That is but one small point. The greater issue is the overall claim of a potential power elite operating entirely out of sight but with enormous influence. Without any bias I will say that what is presented onstage succeeds in thoroughly stimulating your mind. The performers reach out and draw you into to the moment in deeply memorable ways and you just cannot help but to depart the theatre with your mind racing with thoughts such as “could that really be true?” I am a firm believer in the notion that stimulated thought is a very good thing making “The Leather Apron Club” supremely entertaining.
Kudos to writer/director Charlie Mount and to the entire cast for their outstanding work. But I offer special recognition to Adam Conger as media wizard and tormented prospective new club member James Avery, Ashley Taylor as Grace Keebler titular head of the organization and temptress as required and Don Moss as the near death Dr. Edward Reed whose medical errors caused untold thousands of deaths. Like I said there is a tremendous amount of depth and thought stimulation within this theatrical piece so do not miss it.
All of the great elements of this show are truly moving and compelling but I do have one tiny little note. One of the characters, Colonel Gil Hart played wonderfully by Yancey Dunham, is we are to believe a major player at the Pentagon and within the “The Leather Apron Club.” The problem is that at the Pentagon level a mere Colonel isn’t all that more significant than a sergeant. So maybe Colonel Hart should be promoted to Lieutenant General Hart.
“The Leather Apron Club” runs now through May 15th at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard West, Hollywood, California 90068. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Reservations may be made by calling: 323-851-7977 and online ticketing is available at: www.theatrewest.org.