Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Building the Wall
Poster from the Gladstone

By Robert Schenkkan

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre

Directed by Sean Devine

People laughed at Adolf Hitler before he gained power and his evil intentions became reality.


Donald Trump was also a source of amusement to many until he became President of the United States. But when his support base took his election as permission for the overt expression of the violence, racism and exploitation that had been kept just below the surface, we all stopped laughing.  Evil had been invited in again as it was through the Nazi regime.

This is the America of 2019 that American playwright Robert Schenkkan presents in his powerful new play Building the Wall, currently receiving its Canadian premiere from Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre.

The President has been impeached. Rick, one of his loyal supporters, is in prison awaiting sentencing for an unspeakable crime. In an attempt to learn more about the reasons for his actions, Gloria, a black academic, questions him. Gradually, the crime is revealed, as are the banality of the reasoning behind Rick’s evil actions and his interpretation of Trump’s “building a wall” declaration. As Rick points out, the event has had the desired effect of keeping illegal immigrants out. No physical wall is required.


Both the play and the fine production it receives from Horseshoes & Hand Grenades underline the power of simplicity. Director Sean Devine keeps movement to a minimum. Set and lighting designer David Magladry delivers a drab meeting room in an El Paso prison for the encounter between Rick and Gloria. As Rick, Brad Long is quietly matter-of-fact in revealing how he fulfilled the requirement to solve the problem he faced as the supervisor of a private for-profit prison in Texas. As Gloria, Cassandre Mentor is an excellent counterpoint, maintaining academic objectivity almost all the time.

This is live theatre at its best.

A request to HHG and the Gladstone: Extend the run or bring the show back soon.

Director: Sean Devine

Set and lighting: David Magladry

Sound: Kyle Ahluwalia


Rick…………………………………….Brad Long

Gloria…………………………………..Cassandre Mentor