By David Walters 

Director Jake Beckhard had his work cut out for him as playwright Andy Boyd gave him basically three debates to stage in the play Three Scenes in the Life of a Trotskyist. He did a bang-up job on the postage stamp sized 56-seat stage at The Tank, alternating point of view, shifting focus, and guiding his talented cast in evoking the humanity behind the many huge ideas tossed about in the evening. 

It’s 1939 and the City College Cafeteria Pugilists, Stalinists and Trotskyists, meet at one AM, “after the libraries close and the movie theatres close and the diners run out of cheesecake,” to debate and obliterate each other’s ideas as they see the world spinning out of control with the rise of Nazism in Europe and the attacks on the Jews. Stalinist Ben Roth (Ben Schrager), and Trotskyist Lev Trachtenberg (Jeff Gonzalez), hold forth on neophyte Daniel Kaplan (Evan Maltby) to try and win him over to their camp. 

1967 rolls around and Lev Trachtenberg is now a literature professor at Columbia University. One of his students, Curtis James (Charlie Hurtt), arrives to ask for an extension on a paper as he has come to realize that his blackness is a built-in hindrance to his education at Columbia perpetrated not only by the student body, but the school, the professors, and the curriculum they teach. He regales, “Black people aren’t just white people with dark skin,” and asks that concessions be made. He requests that at least one black author be added to the course reading list, threatening a protest and picketing of the professor’s course and thus his job (Lev has now become the “them” of his youth). 

Then 1980 dawns and we find Lev gone, “from the Trotskyist Left to the Reaganite Right,” and ensconced in a large office on the 25th floor with stunning views of Central Park. He is the zealous publisher of the New Republic, a Right leaning publication read by not one, but two Reagans, both Ron and Nancy. He has asked his old friend Daniel Kaplan (now played by Michael Jay Henry), who is now a bestselling memoir-ist, for a visit and a favor. They discuss and argue what life has given to each of them, acknowledging that, “it’s hard to stay a leftist once you’ve found success,” and ending with a cordial agreement to disagree. Life has given each of them a perspective that they hold to as strongly as they held to their youthful ideals 

Three Scenes in the Life of a Trotskyist is a battle ground of political concepts and a great show to bring a friend if you both like the theater of ideas and do not shudder at a discussion of a permanent societal revolution. You’ll both walk away reflecting and talking long into the night. 

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Three Scenes in the Life of a Trotskyist was written by Andy Boyd and directed by Jake Beckhard. 

  

The cast is: Michael Jay Henry, Jeff Gonzalez, Charlie Hurtt, Evan Maltby, and Ben Schrager. 

  

Scenic and prop design by M Picciuto, costume design by Madeline Rosaler, and lighting and video design by Leanna Keyes. 

  

Three Scenes in the Life of a Trotskyist plays through Sunday, March 17, 2024, at The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $25-50, plus fees), go online. Patrons are also required to wear masks in the theatre when not eating or drinking. 

  

The Tank is one of the last remaining spaces that looks to champion emerging theater artists by providing free space.