Political Drama Based on Lewis Novel, ‘It Can’t Happen Here,’ Opens June 16

In the coming month, BarnArts will present “It Can’t Happen Here” at the Feast & Field location in Barnard, a play based on Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel.

This novel, as relevant to American politics now as it was back in the 1930s, was adapted by Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen. Productions will start June 16, with a 7p.m. performance. Other 7 p.m. performances will be June 17, 22, 23, 29, and 30. Afternoon performances will be June 17 and July 1 (which will be the final performance), at 4 p.m., with June 24 being a rain-date.

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This new adaptation premiered in 2016 in Berkeley, Calif., but now makes it way back to Vermont, where the original novel was written and takes place. Set in the fictional town of Fort Beulah, “It Can’t Happen Here” follows the citizens of Fort Beulah as the country is plunged into an age of fascism and military power, brought about by a president, Berzelius (Buzz) Windrip, who many believed would not—could not—win the presidency. Some ignore the situation, caring for their families without much thought to the world outside, while others become revolutionaries and rebels; fighting against a corrupt system.

Local Cast

Of the show, Amy Levitt said, “What I like most about playing Lorinda is the opportunity to play someone with spine and with an unwavering tongue. She has backbone and does not waffle her words, but lays out the abhorrent politics and matches her speech with rebellious action.”

The show follows Doremus Jessup (played by Peter Mendes), his wife Emma (Yael Taylor), their children: Philip (Aaron Michael Hodge), Sissy (Erin Bennett) and Mary (Abigail Bower); Mary’s husband, Fowler (Jeff Tolbert); as well as Sissy’s fiancé, Julian, and the family’s hired man, Shad (both played by Brendan Schwarz); and Doremus’ friends Lorinda and Buck (Amy Levitt and D. Gene Kraus).

The family is accompanied by a cast of various other characters, including President Buzz Windrip (Daniel Patterson), and a group of narrators (Natalie Willow Carr, Christian Coffman, Alexis Taylor-Young, and Quanah Tokarski) as they deal with the situation unfolding.

From Doremus’ newly dangerous political views, riot-starting editorials, and strained relationship with his wife (due to his affair with Lorinda), to Philip’s faith in Windrip and dislike of his father’s political beliefs, to Sissy’s spying, the show doesn’t back from the harsh realities of fascism and the fact that it can happen here.

“It Can’t Happen Here” is being directed by Maureen Hennigan, assisted by Marin Keleher and Linda Treash. For more information, or to buy tickets, go to barnarts.org

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