When asked what he wanted viewers to get out of his new play, “FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers,” documentarian and playwright Phelim McAleer responded, “The truth.” That’s precisely what is being suppressed in Mead Theatre withdrawing from hosting the play’s premiere at the last minute, citing security threats due to a now-deleted tweet.
However, claims of safety concerns are merely a smokescreen to hide the far more insidious cause of the endeavored cancellation: anti-conservative bias. Yet the show must go on, and on June 13, the cast will rise above attempts at censorship to bring this fascinating tale to life.
With a ripped-from-the-headlines story of sex, politics, and international espionage, “FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers” has all the makings of a sure-fire smash success. Described by McAleer as “Macbeth meets The Crucible,” it’s the shocking but true tale of former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and agent Peter Strzok’s attempts to prevent Trump’s presidency through concocting accusations of collusion with Russia. It’s one of the greatest political scandals of our age, yet it has not been granted the coverage it deserves due to bias against facts that appear to benefit political conservatives.
A tale of two senior officials within the Robert Mueller investigation actively acting to sabotage President Trump disquiets the left’s manufactured narrative of Mueller as the righteous crusader sent to save America from the Russian mole in the Oval Office. The truth, however, is much murkier than the left would care to admit, and the Mueller probe was far more an undemocratic attempt to unseat a legally elected president than an ethical investigation.
McAleer set out to fill this gap in the media with a play detailing the affair, plot, and ultimate disgrace of Strzok and Page, portrayed by Dean Cain (“Lois and Clark,” “Gosnell”) and Kristy Swanson (“Psych,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and using the real-life contents of the pair’s text messages. McAleer uses these text messages verbatim in his script: “This is 100 percent verbatim. So people know that everything they hear on that stage is 100 percet what Strzok and Page said.”
This adds weight to the production, as it allows no room for embellishment or falsification, but rests on the strength of the true events as they occurred. These texts, and subsequent Senate testimony, need no dramatic license to prove their point, either. “It’s all there in its glory,” McAleer said, “and it does not look pretty when it’s exposed to the public gaze.”
Mead Theatre asserts that they chose to break their contract to bow out of hosting “FBI Lovebirds” due to security threats against the production. However, McAleer says the entire basis of these claims is a single tweet, which has been since deleted, encouraging someone to commit an act of violence against the production while not explicitly threatening the production. McAleer contends the theater used the tweet as an excuse to cancel the production due to its conservative content, since the theater never looked into the threat, nor checked with him to discuss what security measures he had planned.
“[Entertainment industry players] give themselves award after award after award for being so brave,” McAleer said. “But when they’re actually asked to do something brave and be strong, they crumble. For them, being brave is shouting nasty things about Republicans or Trump in a loud voice. But ask them to show something that might actually make people angry or something that’s really brave or unusual, then they just crumble like a house of cards. These are not brave people.”
After Mead Theatre’s withdrawal, McAleer struggled to find a new venue. Several media outlets also falsely reported that the show was cancelled. Despite these setbacks, McAleer is determined to get his production to a wide audience, filming the upcoming stage production and putting it online.
By filming a live play rather than merely making a movie, “FBI Lovebirds” offers accessibility while preserving the immediacy and intimacy of the theater. “I think it’s more powerful as a play,” McAleer said. “It’s a human drama. It’s a love story between two people who happen to be also involved in an undemocratic coup d’état. But, the thing about doing a play is that people can’t see it, but when we put it online, that’s really going to open the floodgates for people to see it.”
“FBI Lovebirds” is not McAleer’s first foray into controversy. His recent film, “Gosnell,” tells the story of the investigation and trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murdering three infants born alive. Due to its pro-life position, the film was dropped by many theaters despite immense success at the box office.
Likewise, his previous verbatim play, “Ferguson,” faced a cast walk-out in its Los Angeles premiere due to his similarly direct, fact-based approach to Michael Brown’s shooting by a cop in the eponymous city. Yet the creative team persisted with a new cast, and the production went on as scheduled to acclaim.
In a polarized culture filled with explicit bias in the press, rampant censorship, and polarization leading to selectively editing fact to suit a personal narrative, it is important and necessary to tell challenging and true stories, particularly the ones being suppressed. As long as there is a leftist media narrative ruling pop culture, diverse viewpoints will face censorship.
Luckily, brave and resilient artists will rise above such suppression. The uncomfortable truth is an unstoppable power, so long as there are those with the courage to share it.