by Chris Lane
Sam Steiner was raised by a conservative Mennonite family, and struggles to escape from his parents’ way of life while seeking to find his place in an America caught in the midst of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. The story progresses well, as Sam grows from a sullen teenager into a young man with strong ideals.
Given the play’s setting, it seemed at first as if it might be addressing issues from an out-of-date perspective, but instead it is a thought-provoking piece that deals with conflicts that are still relevant today. The play discusses what it means to be a pacifist, and the difference between a conscientious objector and a draft dodger. The play also had some insightful lines about conscious and unconscious racism, and about every person’s responsibility to have their own opinions and values.
The production has a strong cast, and is well-directed by the playwright, Rebecca Steiner, who made some solid choices regarding the blocking of the play, particularly in representing the conscientious objectors and the U.S. Army. The soundtrack effectively sets the play in its time period and adds to the atmosphere. Gadfly: Sam Steiner Dodges the Draft has a great story with strong characters including a protagonist who genuinely grows and evolves his ideals.