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Meet the new protester, same as the old protester.

A few of Brooklyn College’s thespian scholars will be lifting the curtain on their production of Nick Silver’s “The Altruists” on March 23–25, a decade-old farcical exploration that feels as fresh and contemporary as Occupy Wall Street.

“Nicky Silver wrote [“The Altruists”] in 2000, so this play is coming out of the 2000 election and all the stuff that was going on then and, interestingly, it has a resonance with this time as well,” said director Josh Penzell, on his thesis production.

While the play’s setting predates 9-11, the economic collapse, and government bailouts of banks and big businesses, the play, and its themes, won’t be lost on audience members unfamiliar with the satyr’s origin.

“I think the nature of protests have changed with the Tea Party protests and Occupy Wall Street, and we’ve been very careful to allow the themes of the play to be contemporary, while placing it in a pre-9-11 environment,” said Penzell. “The play didn’t come out of Occupy, but, because of the current state of affairs, it could easily seem like it did.”

The show begins with a seven-page monologue from the play’s wealthy protagonist, Sydney, who follows up her long-winded sermon by murdering her hypocritical, hyper-activist boyfriend with a few well-placed shots from a semi-automatic hand cannon. In the wake of Sydney’s crime of passion, her late boyfriend’s protestor collegues have to scramble in order to cover for her, since she’s funding their subversive operation.

“The protestors, though they loath my lifestyle, need my money,” said former Ms. Brooklyn beauty Keelie Sheridan, who plays Sydney. “So, they’re trying to keep me from going to jail, because everything costs money; the protests, the brochures, the organization. They have to figure out how to keep me from jail, while justifying that what they’re doing is the right thing.”

The production isn’t just about protests, however, and, as its title suggests, the play will cast a cynical eye towards do-gooding for do-gooding’s sake.

“I do think the play asks questions about the value of protesting, the value of helping others and, when we’re helping others, who are we doing it for,” the director asked. “For other people, or ourselves?”

Brooklyn College Whitman Theater [2900 Bedford Ave. between Campus Road and Campus Road in Midwood, (718) 951-5666] March 23–24, 7:30 pm, and March 24–25, 2 pm. $6. For info, visit depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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