There are two very important points made in Ezra LeBank’s new show, PITCH. One is that the pro-life movement isn’t really about the sanctity of life; it’s about control. The other is: “You don’t fuck around with dynamite.” And that, my friends, seems especially true.
But a large portion of the allure of PITCH is the mysterious pageantry surrounding it, before you even set foot at the show. LeBank, an assistant professor at University of Montana's School of Theatre and Dance, set up a blog dating back to mid-February that follows the unnamed character of PITCH from the East Coast through Georgia, across the Midwest to Wyoming and Montana. Besides commenting on the scenery, LeBank’s character mentions the meetings he’s conducting to discuss his big plan: persuading people across America to join an underground coalition to create change—with explosives. It’s a nice prologue for getting a little window into the character.
The other part of the allure is that you have to a buy a ticket to the show to find out where it takes place. I won’t spoil the secret by telling you it’s in downtown Missoula, but if you really want to get the vibe of a subversive underground meeting, it’s better you don’t know until you’re committed to seeing it.
What makes this show work is LeBank’s high-energy approach to weaving together pop culture and politics. The backdrop of video—created with the help of director Pete Betcher—provides LeBank with a wide array of contexts. One moment he’s jogging through a backdrop of clouds, another he’s playing along to the image of a giant piano. A Martin Luther King speech clip helps drive home the mood of a crowd high on the idea of change. Only, of course, LeBank’s character has an idea for change that is much darker, much more questionable. That’s why the tagline for PITCH is: The hardest sell in America.”
Or, it was, anyway. I saw that LeBank changed the tagline on the blog recently to “It’s Time For a New American Dream.” That tag is just as fitting, and maybe even more deliciously misleading. After all, it is always time for a new American Dream, but the one PITCH offers is one you’d never really expect. In fact, halfway through the show, I felt a sense of foreboding anxiety about where this “pitch” for change was going to lead. That’s a good thing.
PITCH is a satire, and as a satire it reveals some truths. There are moments when some very obvious points are made about abortion, about life and about choice. Those moments might be necessary to anchor the ideas in the show, but they also weigh it down with expository arguments we’ve all heard before, referencing back alley coat hangers and other such clichés. It’s when the monologue reflects those ideas less obviously, that this show really shines. LeBank’s writing is keen in these moments. His character laments simpler times when you didn’t have to fuss with so many different kinds of milk—2%, soy, etc.—when the slim pick of choices made decisions easier. He says clever things regarding his new revolution like, “I thought that the 12 step program was too cumbersome so I made it 6.” These are the best parts.
And even though the character is sometimes hard to relate to in all his mental unraveling, you can still get where he’s coming from. That’s what really make this pitch feel, somehow, scarily persuasive.
PITCH continues at a secret location in downtown Missoula Thu., March 24—Sun. March 27 at 7:30 PM nightly. $10/$5 students. Go to pitchmt.blogspot.com for tickets. You will be e-mailed the location of the show once you purchase a ticket.