“Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers” 2008 Tour Edition
by Geoffrey Cowan
Multi-cast drama
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works (2008)
Approx 2 hours.

Where did it all go wrong?  When did the government become a source of distrust?  I don’t think there is one single event that caused this current distrust of politics and the government, but according to current Pew research only 26% of those surveyed trust the government.  A lot of this has come from current governmental scandals, but I would go out on a limb and say that a lot of this government distrust started during the Vietnam war era.  That was a time of coverups and secret wars that once the information reached the public the government in general seemed to be a bad guy.

One of the events that reveal this cover up was the publishing of the “Pentagon Papers” by the New York Times and the Washington Post in 1971.  This release from L.A. theatre works brings to light the events surrounding the release of the Papers by the Washington Post, including the court trial which led to a landmark decision by the Supreme Court which is best summarized by Justice Steward, “without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people.”  The first amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  with the section on free press, provides another check and balance for the government to act in the best interest of its citizens.  This production from L.A. Theatre works not only provides a nice glimpse at this moment in history but also helps to further the lessons learned during this time of cover ups.

The full cast performance of “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers” stars; Diane Adair, Bo Foxworth, John Getz, James Gleason, Gregory Harrison, John Heard, Charles Janasz, Raphael Sbarge, Russell, Soder, Susan Sullivan, Peter Van Norden, Tom Virtue, Geoffrey Wade, and brings to life the events which led to the publishing of the papers and the battle which was brought to court by the Nixon administration.  The play is very well performed and written and with the audience effects LATW puts you right in the middle of the performance.  Based on interviews and court transcripts this story is one that must be heard by all.

It all starts when an injunction has been served on the NYTimes to stop publication of the “Pentagon Papers,” and the Washington Post reporters and editors see this as an opportunity to scoop the NYTimes by getting their hands on copies of the Paper.  Once the Post begins publishing the Papers, after a long night of soul searching by the reporters and editors, Nixon’s administration jumps in taking the Post to court under the guise of National Security.    Through the trial the paper’s attorneys and editors battle down every argument against publishing the Papers and eventually win, even after the Nixon Administration appeals all the way to the Supreme Court.

This play is a great representation of a time in U.S. history that changed the world, and is a key story in any freedom of press argument.  Grab this piece of history and enjoy.

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